FEATURE STORY• TEXT BY ALICE B. MILLER • IMAGES BY LYNN GOLDSMITH • Maybe it was those weekend visits with Dad, when a young Lynn Goldsmith sat on a stool in his darkroom, entranced, as pictures of her miraculously appeared in the developer tray. She knew this was his passion, not his work. But Goldsmith couldn't have known that those sessions would one day trigger her own photographic and creative exploration.
"Everybody has abilities, talents," says Goldsmith. "For me, balancing light and the mathematics of photography became very natural in the way that some people can just sit down and play the piano."
Goldsmith's acclaimed photographic portraits of movie stars, rock stars, film directors, authors, and other celebrities have appeared in Life, Newsweek, Time, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, People, Elle, Interview, US, Bunte, and Paris Match.
Her images have also made their way into music books and photo collections, including The Police, New Kids on the Block, Circus Dreams, PhotoDiary, Springsteen: Access All Areas, and Flower.
FIRST & FOREMOST
To the public, Goldsmith's other professional accomplishments have been all but eclipsed by her photographic fame. Not many people know that after she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan, National Lampoon published her Photo Funnies; or that she became director of ABC's Joshua TV, the first company to produce music videos; or that she directed ABC-TV's In Concert, the first network TV rock show.
In 1971, at the ripe old age of 20, she became the youngest person ever to be inducted into the Director's Guild of America. But directing lacked the creative freedom she craved. "It was too predictable, controlling, and time consuming."
Around that time, Joshua TV was doing a show on Al Green. She had taken a bunch of photos of him and pasted them up on story boards. An art director from London Records saw them and offered her $1,000 to use them for an album cover. She asked for $1,500 and got it. Compare that with the $500 weekly salary she made directing a TV show.
"This was great. More money meant more freedom," she recalls. Shortly thereafter, during a trip to Florida, she took pictures of Elvis and went right to RCA with them. "They offered me $25 per picture and bought 10 pictures. I suddenly realized I could make enough with my pictures to pay my bills."
She started biking to magazine editorial offices to get her work out there. "If RCA needs Elvis pictures, others must need Elvis pictures," she thought. Her photography career was in full gear.
On location or in the studio, music fills the air at every Goldsmith shoot. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Dennis Rodman, Bill Gates, Patti Smith, Woody Allen, Mick Jagger all respond to a different beat. Beyond music, there are no other constants at her shoots.
"In the early days, I used makeup stylists, when no one else did, to make my clients look natural. Now I'm at a stage in my life when less is more. I wish I could make a photo without a camera. I have to become that spirit so I can feel if the person is tight or nervous. Being female I have nonthreatening ways to make men and women warm up. But I don't think anyone comes close to Irving Penn in this. I don't know how he gets in their souls. He's the man."
Goldsmith will use both her Nikon F5 and Mamiya RZ67 on virtually every shoot.
For the image of jazz singer Jane Monheit, taken for her new CD, Come Dream With Me, she wanted to create different Monheit fantasies. Shown here before a Degas at the Empire Raddison hotel in New York City, Monheit fulfills her dream of being a dancer.
"To create a romantic mood, I used Kodak Ektachrome 200 film, overexposed it, and made the lighting very soft. Part of what makes any celebrity portrait photographer good is who does their clients' hair and makeup. Stylist Maria Verel adds so much to this image."