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Books: Photographer Lynn Goldsmith and Muse Patti Smith

By David Schonauer   Thursday December 5, 2019


Patti Smith can’t remember when she met Lynn Goldsmith.

“Patti just tells people, ‘Lynn has always been in my life,” notes Goldsmith. Likewise, Goldsmith can’t remember when she met Smith. “But I don’t want to say the same thing as Patti,” says Goldsmith, “so I make stuff up. I’ll say, ‘I met Patti on a glacier.’”

Whatever the actual circumstances of their meeting, Smith, poet and punk legend, and Goldsmith, legendary rock-and-roll photographer, share a long history as artist and muse. Their close relationship is apparent in the intimacy of the images of Smith that Goldsmith has shot over of the years. Many capture Smith in peaceful, private moments. But not all.

Goldsmith, for instance, was on hand the night in 1977 when Smith fell off a stage in Tampa, Florida, breaking several vertebrae in her neck.

“As a photojournalist I’d covered things that were difficult to keep shooting through, when it pulls on your heartstrings,” Goldsmith told AnOther recently. “I saw her nearing the edge of the stage, but I thought she knew what she was doing because she always did this turning dervish on that song, where she spun and spun and spun. I was uncomfortable, and I am even remembering that feeling.”

Speaking recently at New York’s Morgan Library, Goldsmith noted that she wasn’t sure whether to photograph Smith following the accident.

“I’ve been in situations that have required me to step back. In this situation, since I feel so close to Patti, I asked her when she was conscious backstage, ‘Should we?’ and she was like, ‘Go for it,” Smith recalled.

The occasion for the gathering at the Morgan Library — at which Smith also spoke — was the publication of Before After Easter, a new book from Taschen that, notes the publisher, “documents a transformative moment in the artist’s career and celebrates two greats whose creative partnership continues to this day.”

“Our body of work together reflects a kind of collaboration that is really rare,” says Goldsmith. Her goal, she says, was to reveal a Smith that her legions of admirers have never seen.
One way she has done that is to include many color photographs.

“People are very familiar with the photos of Patti taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, but that work was all black and white,” she says. “Patti is an electric person — she electrifies audiences, and I wanted to represent that.”

The book, which AnOther calls a “deep dive” into the period of Smith’s life following her 1977 fall, is also notable for the range of images of Goldsmith shot, from documentary behind-the-scenes pictures and concert photographs to studio portraits.

“So that enabled Patti and I to have a narrative in the book that we could share with people of what was going on at that time,” Goldsmith tells AnOther.

Goldsmith says her goal was to create a book that would satisfy Smith’s fans. “If you’re doing a book about a particular artist, you want the fan of that artist to feel like they’re getting a sacred object,” she says. It features a number of exclusive texts by Smith.

It also features a photograph that wasn’t taken by Goldsmith. The portrait above, by the late Michael Putland, shows Goldsmith and Smith together in 1977, with Smith holding a camera.

“[W]hen people ask me what’s my favorite picture in the book, that’s it, because I ain’t ever gonna look like that again!” Goldsmith told AnOther. “I didn’t think about that picture really until we were doing the book. When I showed it to Patti she said, ‘Oh my God, if only we’d known.’”

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