I’ve been making photographs for most of my life. I grew up in Boise, Idaho. Then, there weren’t many concerts by famous groups because Boise was too small and kinda hard to get to. Of course we all saw Paul Revere and The Raiders. Paul was a local. He lived on Mountain View Drive. I loved live music. I still do.
I love Warren Zevon’s music and his skill with lyrics. You might know him through Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me” or “Werewolves of London.” He was going to do a solo show at the Moonshadow Saloon I think it was, here in Atlanta. This was sometime in the early eighties… ’81 or ’82 I think. The date isn’t on his tour list. My memory isn’t clear of the exact date or year for that matter.
But I know I saw him play. How do I know? I have the photographs I’d made. My motorized Nikon F2 body that night was loaded with tungsten High Speed Ektachrome color slide film. The film was rated at ISO 160. Push processing bumped that up to an astonishing 320. Awesome then. Ho hum by today’s standards. That was the best there was then. Fast lenses were really important then. Mine was a 180mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens.
This was also a time when musicians were more open with photographers. No press passes were required. Nobody asked what I was doing with the camera. The show started. I rested my elbows on the table I was sitting at with my date and shot some of Warren playing piano. No one wearing a shirt with “SECURITY” on the back came to my table. The F2 was the first Nikon to have an easy way to make double exposures. Digital wasn’t even a dream then.
When he pulled out his guitar, I stood up to shoot some more photographs. I couldn’t quite get the angle I wanted so I walked up the stairs onto the stage.
During another song he concentrated on the lyrics he flowed into the microphone. Finishing the chorus he looked toward me. Then, for just a moment he locked his eyes on my lens. He knew I needed just a moment of stillness. He held the note. I released the shutter. I had my own personal portrait of Warren Zevon. His tour manager who has been watching me during the set, finally waved to me and pointed to my table. I nodded and left the stage. What a great evening.
That was as close as I ever got to meeting him. While it would have been great to chat for a bit, I wouldn’t trade these images for a handshake.
Memories are fleeting. The proverb is right: “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.”
Photographs can be forever. Carry your camera. Capture your memories. Preserve your photos.
Warren Zevon died on September 7th, 2003 at home in Los Angeles.Kevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.