In March of 2003, I got a call from a publicist from Lave Records, asking me if I wanted to do a shoot with a band she worked with. They were called O.A.R., and they were playing at the Aragon Ballroom. I had never heard of them, and figured that they were the opening act. I got there to find out that the marquee read “O.A.R.- SOLD OUT.” YIKES! I went in and met the guys, who were all very nice. I took them out on the fire escape and did a little shoot with them.
The next day, I had a meeting with some people who were starting a management company in Chicago. During the meeting, one of the people said, “Hey, I want you to meet a friend of mine. He wants to learn about photography.” I turned around, and there was Benj Gershman, the bass player from O.A.R. We became friends, and I started emailing back and forth with him, teaching him photography by email.
I kept on shooting them, and they kept on getting bigger and bigger. In June of 2009, they asked me to shoot a cover of a live album that they were recording in Chicago. I shot for two nights, getting tons of scenes and crowd shots, including one of Jerry, the sax player, who saw me out of the corner of his eye, and came over between songs to check himself out on the back of my camera!
The following week Chris, the drummer, who lived in Chicago at the time, came to my house to pick me up, and we drove around the city for about four hours shooting Chicago scenes, including all the places they had played in Chicago, and all of their favorite restaurants. They released a three-CD live set, which was recorded at two shows, with a fold-out cover featuring one of my shots folded out to three panels. They also released a four-disc box set that included a set list from each of the shows, signed by each of the guys. It was an edition of 2000, so each guy had to sign 4000 set lists! Also included was a CD of crowd shot images. I still have people who come up to me at shows and tell me they were so happy to look through my photos and find themselves.
The band is on the road again this summer, making more friends and playing more great music!
About Paul Natkin
Paul Natkin learned photography in the trenches, working with his father, the team photographer of the Chicago Bulls. He shot sports in the Chicago area for five years before he discovered music photography in 1976. Since then, he has photographed most of the major music stars of the last half of the 20th century, shooting album covers for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Winter and magazine covers for Newsweek (Bruce Springsteen), Ebony (Tina Turner), People (Prince), and music magazines around the world. See his work online at natkin.net.