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BEHIND THE SHOTS - Gijsbert Hanekroot 

In the 1970s, Gijsbert Hanekroot photographed pretty much every musical icon who passed through Amsterdam. From Bowie, to Marley, to Queen to John Coltrane. We chatted with the dutch photographer to hear some of the stories behind his legendary photos, and how he managed to get backstage so many times to meet these musical giants.

How did you get into live music photography in the first place?

After my military service, I wanted to pursue a career in the visual field. I started as a self-taught photographer in the year of 1970, and managed to get an apprenticeship with the well-known photographer Philip Mechanicus. He let me photograph the rock group The Outsiders. I took one of these photos to a former school friend who worked in Amsterdam for an underground magazine. From then on, I was a photographer, even though I still had a lot to learn at the time. (laughs)

What was it like meeting & taking photos of all these famous musicians?

 

When you meet "famous" people more or less every week, you get used to it. I had to concentrate on taking good photos. The biggest problem was usually the managers who could all of a sudden enter the room and say "This will do".  So you always had to hurry, never knowing how much time there would be.

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Mick Jagger 1977

Tell me about the time Mick Jagger took your photo.

Surrounded by 30, mostly German, photographers, I was on a boat in the harbour of Hamburg. After having taken my share of portraits of Mick Jagger, I couldn't leave. Fortunately, I was up front, so on impulse, I handed over my camera to Mick, and he took this photograph. The one without a camera is me. Thank you, Mick Jagger.

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Leonard Cohen 1972

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Bob Marley 1977

"When you meet The Bob back stage he looks like a tiny boy next door, but wait till you see him on stage. The 'black Mick Jagger' I called him once."

What are some of your most memorable shows that come to mind?

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust in London 1973

Bob Dylan, New York, 1974

Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, Oakland CA, 1974 (together with Annie Leibowitz on stage)

Bob Marley, The Hague, Netherlands 1977.

Seeing Bob Marley live must have been unreal.

 

When you meet The Bob back stage he looks like a tiny boy next door, but wait till you see him on stage. The 'black Mick Jagger' I called him once. You don’t see someone this photogenic and with so much charisma too often. From this concert, I took two black and white and one colour rolls of film. Nearly a hundred shots.

How many rolls of film did you have on you at these shows?

 

I had an assignment with a bi-weekly music magazine called ‘OOR,’ which is the Dutch word for ear. OOR only printed black and white but I also did colour for the glossy magazines. So at least two rolls of film, but for the bigger acts I think I shot three or more films (36, 35mm).

I was always able to do the whole concert. And then, mind you, after the show: develop the film, print contact sheets, make the selection, print the photos and bicycle to the daily newspapers. Going to bed around 3:00, 4:30 AM. I'm not complaining.. this was the analogue era...

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STORIES BEHIND THE PHOTOS

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Lou Reed 1974

LOU REED 1974 - CARRE THEATRE | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

What I like about this photo is the composition of Lou's hands and the two spotlights in the background. Also, Lou is looking directly into my camera, which is quite unusual - that was a quiet moment during his set.

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Keith Richards 1976

KEITH RICHARDS 1976 - HILTON HOTEL | BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

The atmosphere in this photo is quite unique. I read in Keith Richards' autobiography 'Life' that he had a gun under his pillow in 1974 and that only his son Marlon was allowed to wake him up. Keith had severe drug problems at the time and you can see from the photo that he wasn't doing very well.

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David Bowie 1974

DAVID BOWIE 1974 - AMSTEL HOTEL | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

This is during a press reception in 1974. Photo taken before a mirror wall in which you see my colleague photographers having a chat while I was working hard. It payed out...

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono 1971

JOHN & YOKO 1971- SELFRIDGES, OXFORD STREET | LONDON, UK

Lennon was the all time favourite of the journalist I was working with so he was nervous himself. It made me nervous as well. It didn't help for good photo shooting.

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John Coltrane 1963

JOHN COLTRANE 1963 - AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

I was 18 years old and not yet a professional at all. Actually I was in high school. I went to this night concert and only years later, realised the photo of this Jazz Icon was quite good.

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Lou Reed 1972

LOU REED 1972 - HOTEL WIECHMAN | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

In this hotel, owned by an American music lover, a lot of yet-to-break-through musicians stayed. Reed had a reputation of being nasty and non-cooperative. But he wasn't. It's more his act to behave like that.

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Top Left: Brian Eno, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Patti Smith

Were there ever any altercations during your time on the job?

 

Sure, In the early 1970s, I wasn’t the only one learning the profession, the whole scene was finding out how the business was working. Acts made their first or second album. Management, promotors, crowd control, everybody was learning. So security guards sometimes preferred to have a brawl rather than maintain order.

 

Any tips for making your subject feel comfortable when taking their shot?

There is no rule. I'm my case, being pretty shy, I skipped that part and with some body language, I started shooting, or even better let the journalist do this type of work. I worked more or less nameless and let the journalist do the talking.

Interview: Ollie Rodgers
Photos: Gijsbert Hanekroot