How would you classify your latest book, Immortal Axes. What inspired the book’s inception?
Intimate portraits of the world’s most famous and revered guitars photographed in the artists homes or backstage access. The guitars are often arranged in personal settings and reveal the wear and tear details and personalization each artist leaves behind on them, that fans cannot see during concert performances. The text showcases information about the guitars along with stories about the artists and the my experience photographing them.
I grew up in a musical family and my Father played guitar emulating his favorites of Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Merle Haggard etc. My older siblings introduced me to Prog rock, Folk music, Jazz and Classic Rock. Later in life, photographing guitars became a way to connect with my Father and honor the musicians that had become the roadmap of my life. The shape, smell, colors, patina, history and the stories I knew they held captivated my soul and pursuit of capturing the world’s most famous ones.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
Immortal Axes took 8 years to complete for a publishing date of September 28th, 2021
Who are some of your top 5 authors or photographers you look up to & admire?
A few key authors have been highly influential. When I was 18, I read the book by Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich” that was given to me by my boyfriend who broke up with me because he felt I was too negative and critical. It was truly a groundbreaking book about the power of positive thinking and it changed my approach in communicating skills and seeded the ability to achieve success. At age 24 I discovered Shakti Gawain’s, “Creative Visualization” that taught me the power of using thoughts and words to manifest. Followed by Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, here I learned I could self-heal and never ever get sick. Finally, Paramahansa Yogananda’s book “Autobiography of a Yogi” expanded my spiritual inquiry and understanding. The depths of my yoga journey deepened significantly.
While working for Kodak one of my photographer clients was the talented and ethereal Joyce Tenneson. She taught me that in order to be successful you had to find your own unique niche and style of photography so that it was recognizable and no one could copy you. Having an analytical mind I love to see and examine things up close and personal. In my photography of guitars I applied this by using a macro lens to capture the fine wear and tear details on guitars that show the personality of the artist without them being in the image, because of what they leave behind on the guitar. Their sweat, blood and tears are evident on the patina along with other design elements, stickers etc. they customize their guitar with. Of course Mick Rock and Bob Gruen are also inspirations and were also my clients in New York.
What was the inspiration behind Immortal Axes as a followup to 108 Rock Star Guitars?
Do you see a followup to these two books in the future?
The music that is made from wire and wood is a constant inspiration to meet the instrument behind the songs that move me, and provides the motivation to track them down. There are still many more guitars I would like to capture including those of Angus Young, Mark Knopfler, Roy Buchanan, Duane Eddy, Hank Marvin, Patsy Cline, Marty Stuart, Adam Jones, Mike McCready, Flea, John Frusciante, Pat Metheny etc., so yes there could be another book easily.
What’s the biggest takeaway you want your readers to come away with after looking at and reading the artist guitar stories from Immortal Axes?
That it includes a great cross section of the first women in rock such as Suzi Quatro, Patti Quatro, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Nancy Wilson, Lucinda Williams, to those that followed them, Vicki Peterson, Suzanna Hoffs, Susan Tedeschi, Jennifer Batten, to the younger generation, St Vincent, Orianthi and Nita Strauss The Foreword was written by Peter Frampton with an Afterword by Suzi Quatro. To my knowledge, the first guitar book that features a woman’s voice in an Afterword. (or Foreword)
This volume is THE quintessential book on the worlds most significant guitars crossing musical genres from Early Pioneers of guitar: Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Charlie Christian, Eldon Shamblin. Blues Pioneers: T-Model Ford, Robert Belfour, R.L. Burnside, Lowell Fulson, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, John Mayall, Gary Moore. Jazz Greats: George Benson, Bruce Conte, Francis “Rocco” Prestia. Country Legends: Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Brad Paisley, Lucinda Williams. Funk rockers: Blackbyrd McKnight, Vernon Reid, Stevie Salas. Goth pop/electronica players: Pearl Thompson, Daniel Ash, John Fryer, William Reid. Metal shredders: Dimebag Darrell, Scott Ian, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, David Ellefson, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Zakk Wylde. Early Rock Icons: Elvis Presley, James Burton, Albert Lee. Classic rock icons: Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Duane Allman, Dave Davies, Billy Duffy, Steve Hackett, Steve Howe, Tony Iommi, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Dave Grohl, Jerry Garcia, Malcolm Young, Nancy Wilson, Ronnie Lane. Plus Legendary Bass Players: Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, Geezer Butler, Robert Trujillo, Chris Squire, Michael Anthony, Billy Sheehan, Mike Starr, Phil Lesh, Krist Novoselic, Rick Danko, Paul McCartney, Suzi Quatro.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer/book author?
I began the study of photographing guitars in Memphis, TN while I was dating a fellow who owned a vintage guitar shop, while working for the Eastman Kodak Company. When Kodak transferred me to NYC I knew I wanted to keep photographing guitars and decided I may as well photograph famous ones and the idea came to me then in 1997 that I could create a book of famous players guitars given every player came through New York.
How have you evolved as a writer/photographer over the last five years?
When I first started I was mostly interested in capturing the intimate close up details of the guitar. Over the years, I have learned to hone my skills in capturing every aspect of a guitar from detailed parts to the whole guitar based on feedback from editors that wanted to see the WHOLE guitar. The writing aspect has always been the most difficult for me. The photography aspect is second nature while the writing part is something I have to discipline myself to do. Extracting the stories from my mind and weaving in the artist and guitar information is so intimate. Once I get it down on paper its very rewarding and quite healing. It is kind of like intense journaling because I’m reliving moments from my early childhood and how the music made and the instrument I photographed may have affected me. Sometimes it can be a heart wrenching process. I find it easiest to recite my story and read the notes I wrote while shooting the guitar to an assistant who types it out and then we edit it together before sending it to a copy editor. It’s a deep process.
If you could meet, have dinner, have a drink with anyone dead or alive from the Immortal Axes book – who would it be?
Malcolm Young. AC/DC is my all-time favorite band. Their riffs strike a deep chord in me and bring every cell alive! So yeah, I would like to have spent some time with Malcolm and of course his brother Angus and get inside their minds.
Favorite photographed guitar or story from the making of Immortal Axes?
The Beatles spread in the book is truly a prize for me. To have captured John Lennon’s 1964 J-160E Bed-In guitar was super special because my Dad had that same guitar my Mother bought for him for $400 when I was only 1 years old, that I now have in my collection. Couple that guitar with George Harrison’s 1964 Gibson SG he used to record the Revolver album with and Paul McCartney’s 1963 Hofner bass, you have the icing on the cake for this book especially given Paul’s bass and George Harrison’s guitar were the last two photo sessions for this book!
ENTER THE SHELL: https://www.entertheshell.com/photographerlsj/
End of Interview