Patti Smith: Photographer’s Muse

Patti Smith Archive
Patti Smith Archive
An early portrait sitting, 1951, Germantown, Pa.

TIME asked artist, writer and musician Patti Smith, one of this year’s TIME 100 honorees, to tell us about her life in front of the lens. Smith shares some of her personal photographs and offers photographers some advice, from a subject’s point of view.

To be the subject of a photographer, whether artist or blessed amateur, is a privilege and a joy. I was delighted as a child to sit for my first portrait. It made me feel special. As a teenager I posed for my siblings in dramatic lighting borrowed from James Whale and film-noir.

In the late sixties, before the conspiratorial lens of Judy Linn, I referenced French New Wave. My schoolmate Frank Stefanko shot me as I first tread upon the road of Rock and Roll. Kate Simon documented the early steps in black and white. Lynn Goldsmith often joined my band on the road and within her studio we shot the atmosphere of Easter, joyfully in color.

There have been so many moments of collaboration, both intense and ebullient, allowing me to experience a sense of being a muse, a hot shot, or merely myself. In 1978, Annie Leibovitz shot me in New Orleans behind a small wall of flame for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. In the early eighties, my only photographer was my late husband, Fred Sonic Smith. After Fred’s untimely death, Steven Sebring documented my way back to public life. Michael Stipe photographed my first tour with Bob Dylan. Bruce Weber shot me in a ballet gown and jewels worthy of the throat of Liz Taylor. Oliver Ray, who took the cover picture for Peace and Notice, snapped a moment as I posed for Richard Avedon for the New Yorker.

Finally, I must speak of Robert Mapplethorpe. I was his first model, a fact that fills me with pride. The photographs he took of me contain a depth of mutual love and trust inseparable from the image. His work magnifies his love for his subject and his obsession with light.

So, as one who has stood before the camera of many artists and friends, I can only advise a photographer to love his subject, and if this is not possible, love the light that surrounds her.

—By Patti Smith

Marco Grob’s portrait of Smith for this year’s TIME 100 can be viewed here.

Smith’s memoir Just Kids is published by Ecco.

Judy Linn’s book of portraits, Patti Smith 1969-1976,  published by Abrams Books can be purchase here.

Related Topics: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

Mg Ko, 20 years old. A Shan farmer with his cow in Lui Pan Sone Village. Kayah State.

Transforming Lives in Burma, One Solar Panel at a Time

In Burma, where only a quarter of the population has access to electricity, solar panels can change lives, as Spanish photographer Ruben Salgado Escudero found out

Read More
Diana Walker—Contour by Getty Images for TIME

An Intimate Portrait of Hillary Clinton in Photographs

LOVED ONE LOST:NAME: Jabril BradleyAGE: 20DOB: 10/6/1990SEX: MaleDATE OF DEATH: 9/1/2011TIME: After MidnightLOCATION: 9th st and Ave of the States, Chester, PACIRCUMSTANCES LEADING UP TO MURDER: Bradley was riding his bike home from a friend’s house on the east side of Chester, September 1, 2011, when an unknown gunman opened fire. He was struck in the back once and continued to ride his bike home. A number of blocks later he collapsed to the ground from blood loss. He bled to death on the street. Bradley’s family claim that he was shot because of mistaken identity. According to his mother, Bradley was supposed to still be in prison. He was serving a sentence for possession of a controlled substance and was allegedly released before his time was up. Within weeks of his murder, the FBI came looking for Bradley at his mothers house, claiming that he got released by mistake. IN PHOTOGRAPH:NAME OF FAMILY MEMBERS: Sister to Jabril Bradley: Danita Harris, 30.Son to Danita Harris: Jah’lil Harris, 3.

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 23, 2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,624 other followers