Jimmy Steinfeldt Interviews Photographer Julian David Stone
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 11/2/18 –
Jimmy Steinfeldt: How often do you clean your lens?
Julian David Stone: A lot! I would blow on the lens and use the yellow Kodak lens tissue.
JS: What photographers influenced you?
JDS: Annie Leibovitz was my idol. I went to see her speak in about 1984 in San Francisco. The weekly coming of Rolling Stone was important. I would go down to Tower Records in my town. This was the center of the music world for me. I would go in and see the latest Annie Leibovitz cover. Also in the issue was the list and dates of upcoming concerts. This was before the internet and that’s how I found out what tours were coming. Also when I started to study photography I was influenced by Henri Cartier Bresson and The Decisive Moment. I’d go to the show and look for that moment that would tell the story of the concert.
JS: Who else influenced your photography?
JDS: Filmmaking. I was pursuing two careers at this time. Filmmaking and Photography. Hitchcock along with Orson Welles were among my main influence as a filmmaker. Also when I saw Star Wars that was the event that made me decide I had to be a filmmaker. I remember the exact moment. I was 13 years old seeing that opening scene of Star Wars in the theater. Where the ship comes over your head. That combined with seeing Citizen Kane in a film class in the 11th grade. That film was as ground breaking visually as Star Wars was to special effects.
JS: What was your first camera?
JDS: My first camera was a Canon AE1 and then I graduated to the Canon A1.
JS: What cameras are you using today?
JDS: Leica digital.
JS: Is there a camera you always wanted but never got?
JDS: Some movie cameras I dreamed of like the ARRI SR, and Super 8’s. I briefly had the Pentax 6×7 but it was too bulky and you couldn’t mount the large slides.
JS: Was there anyone you wanted to photograph but didn’t?
JDS: Pretty much anybody I saw in concert that I didn’t shoot including The Pretenders.
JS: What advice would you have for a young person who wants to pursue photography as a career?
JDS: Shoot everything you can, even little jobs. When there’s nothing at stake you’ll learn what’s important when everything’s at stake. Also don’t be shy to show your work. I sent Rolling Stone magazine some photos with a cover letter I typed on an old fashioned typewriter and my photos ended up in the magazine.
JS: I loved your book No Cameras Allowed. Funny, very well written and of course the photography is outstanding.
JDS: Thank you. Many people have said they enjoyed my funny stories.
JS: Let me ask you some questions about your book. Why did you start sneaking your camera into shows?
JDS: I tried playing an instrument when I was a kid. In 3rd grade we had an assembly and there were no guitars but I tried the French horn because I saw John Lennon with one on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s. I was crazy about music but I soon realized I wasn’t going to be Eric Clapton or David Gilmour. Photography would be my connection to music.
There were three clubs where I lived in Palo Alto all owned by the same people. The Keystone Palo Alto, Keystone Berkeley, and The Stone in San Francisco. I went to see the Ramones in Palo Alto and they said your not coming in here with a camera. I went to my car took my camera apart, hid the pieces on my body, went into the club’s awful bathroom, assembled the camera, shot the Ramones, and when I saw the pictures that was it!
JS: Let’s hear more crazy adventures of you the outlaw photographer.
JDS: I was not a huge fan of Duran Duran but I knew a guy in college who was obsessed. He knew I took pictures and he said he’d pay for my ticket and gas, film and processing. We get to the show at The Forum in L.A. and it’s sold out and there are no tickets anywhere. We go up to an usher working one of the doors and we gave him $30 each to get in. We have no tickets so we walk around and around looking for an empty seat and there are none. Finally the lights go out and I start shooting pictures from the mezzanine leaning against the railing. I shoot 2 rolls of film and we are about to go down a bit closer and just then I feel this hand on my back. I turn around and it’s two huge guards and they say “Duran Duran group security can you come with us?” Of course my friend disappeared. Security takes me outside but I had hidden one roll in my shoe. They took the film out of my camera but then they loosened up and said we’ll let you back into the show. We walk to one of the many doors to the venue and who answers the door but the very guy who earlier let me and my friend in. I could see that this usher was thinking I sold him out to security so he slammed the door and we couldn’t get in! Security was just about to help me get back in via the backstage entrance when their walkie talkie said they had to take care of something immediately. So they ran off to do their job leaving me outside and of course without a ticket.
Another time I was shooting a Joan Jett show at The Stone. It was totally packed. I’m shooting from the crowd. I see a security guy looking at me and pointing at me. Normally I would hide but I figured what can he do I’m in the middle of a crowd, I’m protected. He jumped off the stage, came charging at me through the crowd clearing people out like a bulldozer and as I started hiding my equipment he took down another photographer right next to me.
Prince was coming to town. This is the closest I ever came to what I thought Beatlemania was about. Purple Rain had just come out and the music was playing in every dorm room in college. There was no way I wasn’t going to photograph this show. I went so far as to buy a new lens 70-200mm to get good close-ups. Well because it was a long lens made to shoot in low light it was a huge lens, hard to conceal. When we got to the show I tried to hide it in my pants and everywhere else but no luck. Well I went with a date to this show and big hair was popular at that time and she had a big can of Aquanet hairspray in her giant purse. I placed the can of Aquanet on top of the lens. We walked up to security, the guy looked suspiciously at the big purse, saw a big can of hairspray and let us into the show. I ended up 10th row center and those are some of my favorite pictures of any show!
JS: How did your vantage point being hidden in the crowd affect your photos?
JDS: I liked being able to capture the viewpoint of the crowd. It was fun to later on be allowed into the photographers pit but it wasn’t the best vantage point.
JS: In your book you say photography became less thrilling when you started to be hired to do it.
JDS: I think sneaking in was part of the Rock N Roll rebellion. Also when I was doing it for fun I only went to shows I wanted to see. Now I had to shoot bands I didn’t necessarily want to see.
JS: You had a disappointing experience shooting a Springsteen concert?
JDS: It was the last show of the Born In The U.S.A. tour and we had 12th row center seats at the L.A. Coliseum. I brought all the film and lenses I could. Everything started out smoothly. I went into the bathroom to put my camera together and got to our seats and started shooting. I got through a roll of film and then decided to put a 2x teleconverter on my camera. That gadget doubles the length of the lens you are using, great for close-ups. Well some how the teleconverter locked down my lens at F16 which meant almost no light was getting into the camera. I thought something might be wrong but it didn’t seem too strange so I kept shooting. Well I went right to the dark room after the show and I saw roll after roll with no pictures, just dark black negatives. So all I have are a few shots from that first roll. After that I decided I couldn’t really do two careers anymore. I took the Springsteen experience as a sign. So I moved on from photography and devoted myself fulltime to being a filmmaker.
JS: Tell me about your career as a filmmaker.
JDS: I got out of film school and started writing scripts. I wrote seven bad scripts but the eight script was really good. I got hired by Disney as a writer. I had about 10-15 yeas as a screenwriter. I sold a lot of stuff though not much got made. In the last few years I’ve transitioned into novels. I did one about the early days of live television and that’s in the process of being turned into a TV series.
JS: How after so many years as a filmmaker did the idea occur to you to do this book?
JDS: When David Bowie and Prince died I decided to put some of my photos on Facebook. Everybody started to ask me why do you have these pictures? I told people about my experiences and one of my friends said I should do a book. My initial thought was there were a lot of people shooting shows back then. What would my book be about? How would it be unique since there are so many concert photos out there. Then I realized my stories about having done all these photos by being an outlaw was a cool and worthy story. I remember that whenever I told these stories to friends over the years they would laugh. So I knew these stories along with the photos could be a good book. I did a Kickstarter as sort of a proof of concept and it was successful. I worked with a great designer who made the book far better than I could have done alone. It was also very helpful that film scanners have come so far. They can save negatives and slides that look to be in pretty bad shape.
JS: What’s next for you?
JDS: I’m finishing another novel, about Hollywood in the 30’s. I’m thinking about restaging a play I wrote about the night Elvis Presley dropped acid that previously ran for a few months here in Los Angeles. For the near future I’m promoting this book over the next month or two.