Daniel Corrigan on his work with The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Hüsker Dü and Babes in Toyland
The Replacement’s Let It Be. I try to recall one close friend during my teenage years who didn’t own a copy. Often the record was sitting out somewhere you could easily spot it: on the floor, on the top of a stereo, or slipped inside the front of one of those wooden crates we all used to house our favorite LPs. Westerberg’s talent for capturing the ever-shifting range of adolescent sentiment aside, there was a reason for the album's ubiquitous appeal: Daniel Corrigan’s cover image spoke to an undeniable detached cool many young indie music fans sought to emulate back then.
Growing up in the South during a particularly vibrant era of the Georgia music scene, it was easy to identify with the unfettered attitude of this photograph, as it was reflected in some of the sparse black and white promotional shots of Athens luminaries REM, Pylon and Love Tractor. Still, this kind of portraiture was a bit of an outlier during a decade in which indie was dominated by the flashier influence of goth, post-punk, and new wave imagery.
As grunge started to take hold in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the documentary-style photography of shooters like Michael Lavine and Charles Peterson gained notoriety for capturing the slacker aesthetic of a movement which equated its ordinariness with authenticity. Many critics would later point to the Twin/Tone-led rock scene of Minneapolis as the precursor to the genre's look and musical style, with bands like Hüsker Dü, The Mats, and Soul Asylum checked as a few of its early trailblazers. But Minneapolis had more than a handful of iconic left of the dial acts: They had Prince. They had AmRep and Rhymesayers. They had the legendary First Avenue club. And they had Daniel Corrigan there chronicling every facet of the city’s diverse music scene.
Corrigan began his career thirty-five years ago as an assignment photographer and editor for The Minnesota Daily, and later the alt-weekly, City Pages. As his reputation began to grow, he went on to open his own studio, shot several album covers and music videos, documented tours for Babes in Toyland and Soul Asylum, and became First Avenue’s house photographer - a position he holds to this day. Eschewing the conventional set-ups, Corrigan opted to keeps things minimal and open to the moment, trekking around town with the bare technical necessities in his small camera bag. Locations were often determined by throwing a pencil in the air and using its landing point as a de facto compass. This playfulness and lack of pretense comes through in the many portraits he shot of both local and visiting artists over the years. And the close relationships Corrigan cultivated with musicians, production crews, and venues nurtured an instinct for where, when and how to get the perfect live shot.
In November of 2016, Minnesota Historical Society Press published Heyday, a long overdue book celebrating the influence of Corrigan’s work. All of the city’s major musical figures are represented in Heyday, alongside striking portraits and concert photos of touring acts like The Clash, Iggy Pop, David Byrne and Henry Rollins, to name a few. Earlier this year, I talked with Minneapolis’s most beloved music photographer about his career and some of his most well-known album covers.
LK: Are you originally from Minneapolis?
DC: I was born in New York City. My dad was attending business school, and his first job was in St. Paul. Once he'd established himself, we moved to a town called St. Croix, which is right on the border of Wisconsin about a half hour from Minneapolis. I went through grade school and high school at The Stillwater School. The day I graduated I wanted to get to the big city of Minneapolis.
LK: Did you go straight to college?
DC: I did. I went to the University of Minnesota. I was actually into my third year working toward a liberal arts degree, majoring in Spanish linguistics, and I needed to take an art class to fulfill a requirement. I had this crackpot idea that with Spanish linguistics, I could get a job with the CIA in Central America. But then I took photography. It basically changed my life. I started school over and took every single photo-related credit that the university had to offer. I graduated with double the amount of credits I needed.
Also, in high school, I was the “fourth” member of a three-piece band. I did the lights, the sound, and the production work. So, when I moved to the city, I lived with the guitar player from that band, and he went right into the production business, working sound for a local company. When I found photography, most of my friends were musicians. I was interested in music and the production aspect of music. It was a natural thing for me to start shooting. And I have shot everything. I did evidence pictures for insurance companies for injuries. I know how to light an injury to make it look worse or better depending on how you want it to go. I was a Chippendale’s photographer for a while.
LK: You’ve talked before about how your first experience in a darkroom affected you.
DC: I still remember it. We had this assignment where we had to photograph an object in different settings, and I picked an egg. It's probably totally cliché because it's white, and the pictures I did back then were kind of cliché for a new photographer. But I had a good sense of composition and contrast. It was fun shooting the film, but actually making the first print and seeing it come up in the developer was like the waters parting before me. My life at that moment changed tracks.
LK: You initially worked as a news photojournalist for The Minnesota Daily. How was that type of work different from music photography?
DC: I loved being an assignment photographer. You have no say in what you go out to cover in the morning. Your editor gives you a piece a paper that tells you where, when, and what. Every day was like a field trip. Everything that was in the paper was at least interesting enough that when someone in the editorial meeting pitched it, someone said yes. I could go see it, and often with the best seat in the house. I got to meet a ton of cool people, many of whom still to this day are my friends.
First Avenue, circa 1989. Photo by Daniel Corrigan
LK: Was it your work for The Daily that led to your early relationship with First Avenue? How long have you been involved with the venue?
DC: Yeah. Since 1981. I was an editor for The Daily’s Arts & Entertainment section, and then went on to City Pages, so I was friendly with the club through shooting for those papers. I probably photographed live shows there for fourteen years before they hired me as the house photographer. I’ve been shooting six shows a month, at least, since ’95. Now I also work as a facilities guy, I basically take care of the place, and I love it. And I give a number of tours. It's my favorite part of the job.
LK: It’s mentioned in the book that in the early days, you would come to the club during sound check and have the sound guy set up the lights the way you wanted them in order to get the best shots during the show later that night.
DC: That is my production background. I'm comfortable with those guys. I know how that works and I just did it at First Avenue. They didn’t have room for a lighting guy in the sound booth, so when the sound guy came in, he’d turn on the lights. The sound guy doesn’t care what the lights look like at all. I knew that was the case, and if I went in there ahead of time - as long as I wasn’t in anybody's way - I could move the lights where I wanted them.
LK: Do you still enjoy going to shows?
DC: I love to see live music. They don’t even have to be bands I love.
LK: How did you come to develop a relationship with Twin/Tone Records?
DC: Dave Ayers, who was the A&R guy for Twin/Tone back then, was a classmate of mine. We also worked at The Daily together when he was one of the editors for the Arts & Entertainment section. He liked my pictures. He knew I was a good, dependable shooter and that's exactly how I got involved with them. Once I started to meet their artists, I became friends with them and developed my own relationships. It was natural, and it was lucky because at the same time I was developing a relationship with First Avenue, so everyone already knew me as a photographer.
The Replacements - Let It Be (Twin/Tone, 1984) and Pleased To Meet Me (Sire, 1987).
Cover photos by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: How familiar were you with The Replacements before you shot the cover of Let It Be in 1984?
DC: I had shot them a number of times and knew them through the music scene. When Let It Be came out, I had probably done three or four shoots with them, including the elevator pictures that were originally for the album. I knew who I was dealing with. I was not a huge fan. I was probably more in the camp of Soul Asylum and Hüsker Dü back in the day. I had seen some interesting shows, and Let It Be was a beautiful album. The Replacements were kind of famous for their drunken shows and their sloppiness. I only saw like three of those kind of shows, and I just thought it was bullshit. Maybe looking back at it now, it is sort of an edgy thing, but at the time it was like, "You’re just a bunch of sloppy drunks and this is stupid."
LK: You had some issues with getting them to cooperate for the elevator shots, so you came up with the strategy of putting them on the roof in order to corral them and keep them still, is that right?
DC: Yeah, that was something I had done with other bands as well. People don’t like being close together. It’s not their natural tendency. I had been working for a long time putting people into closed spaces to force that closeness, so it was a spin on that. The roof came out of this theory I had that people who are in danger will take on a different character they cannot fake. I had done a number of pictures where I put a band in a little bit of danger. I mean, I didn’t want to kill them or hurt them, just enough of a setting where they were concerned. The height thing was part of that because when you are up in the air, you get sort of cautious.
Outtakes from The Replacements Let It Be album cover session shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: How did you set up the shoot?
DC: I took some shots with them where I was also on the roof, right at the edge, but I couldn’t get far enough back to get the image you see on the cover. I took that picture standing on a van on the street in front of the Stinson’s house.
LK: There are several shots from that photo session included in Heyday. Do you have a particular favorite, other than the one they used?
DC: No, they picked it. They picked the right one from that set. Now, it is kind of curious and I still wonder - if this had been any other band for any other album, would the picture be as good? If it had been exactly the same set-up, but four different people? Would the picture be considered as good? And the answer I think is no, because it's hooked to this beautiful, incredible album. Now, at the same time, if the exact same album had any other picture on it would it be the same album?
LK: I don't know. That is a good question. That image and that album are so much a part of each other.
DC: I think Paul Westerberg hates me for that question. Paul has this stick in his craw because of that question. But Paul is Paul. My point was that if it were any other band shot on that roof in the same position, would it be... it would not be considered as important.
Outtakes from The Replacements Let It Be album cover session shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: I'm sure you've heard a lot of people say why they think it is such an iconic album cover, but what is your theory?
DC: It's just subtle. It's an honest picture. That's probably mostly it. No real artifice about the picture. And besides, why are they on a roof? Like, is that a Midwest thing? Do people go out and sit on their roofs?
LK: We talked about the elevator shot, which still is a commonly used image of the band. That was originally the photo you turned in for the Let It Be cover art. Why didn't they want to use that photograph?
DC: I do not know what was in Dave's head, and at the time he was the editor of my paper. When your editor wants to reshoot something, that it what you do. I didn’t take it personally. He didn't like it, and that's exactly why people need an editor. Otherwise, the roof picture would not have been used. And that would have been a big mistake looking back at it now. That probably would have been a big mistake, right?
The Replacements elevator photos, Coffman Union circa 1984, shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: Right! And it did become a well-known photo later, so it worked out. There’s a story behind that shot.
DC: I was supposed to take a portrait of them after a show they played at Coffman Union, but I couldn’t get them to do it. I didn’t really have coke, but I told them I had coke, and that we had to go up to the top floor to do it. My friend Iver and I trapped them in the elevator between floors and started shooting. It was a crazy shoot, we were all packed in there together, but I love how that one turned out.
LK: Who came up with the idea for the Pleased To Meet Me cover?
DC: I think it was Paul's idea. When they described it to me, my brother-in-law jumped out. It was so perfect.
Outtakes from The Replacements Pleased To Meet Me album cover session shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: That is your brother-in-law in the suit shaking Paul’s hand?
DC: Yeah. The price of the manicure was all we had to pay him. We got some hundred-dollar manicure or something like that. I think he had some modeling ideas back then. Not that it helped his career at all.
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey (Warner Bros., 1986) and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (Warner Bros., 1987).
Cover photos by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: You had a long personal and professional relationship with Hüsker Dü. How did you guys first hook up?
DC: My first picture of them was a portrait for The Daily. We were doing a story on them and they came over to the studio. The paper had gotten new electric typewriters and we had all the old manual typewriters sitting in a pile. We did a picture of them sitting in a pile of broken typewriters. I made a ton of beautiful pictures of Hüsker Dü. They were very creative, artistic people. I loved working with them. Bob Mould is my favorite musician out of Minneapolis. He has brilliant writing abilities, playing abilities, production abilities. Even his business sense is beautiful. He has a great eye. He is across the board everything.
LK: The hallucinogenic cover art for Candy Apple Grey was a real departure for you. How did that come about?
DC: It was basically Grant Hart’s idea. I just had to figure out how to implement into something that we could do photographically. We came up with an ingenious sort of setup. Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse are very closely related. On both, we used a technique in which we shot in an entirely dark room, opened up a shutter and then would turn lights on for a certain amount of time so that you can paint with the light. Both Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse were shot using that technique.
LK: What exactly am I looking at on the Candy Apple Grey cover?
DC: Basically, glass shelves. What we did was make layers and I was shooting straight down. There would be a glass shelf with some colored glass on it, and then like three or four inches of space, and then another glass shelf with broken glass and glitter on it, and then another glass shelf. It was sandwiched like that. We were able to light each individual layer differently. It was a complicated process, but it gave incredible depth to that photograph.
LK: It reminds me of coral, like some of the photos you see of fluorescent deep-sea coral. When you shoot layers of glass like that, how do you keep it from reflecting?
DC: Very carefully! On that project, we probably did a hundred test polaroids. You take a look at the reflections, and then you figure out how to get rid of the reflections.
LK: Was Grant also a visual artist? Did he have art school background?
DC: He was a complete artist. Yes, I will say that for sure. I think that anybody who worked with him for any amount of time would agree with me on that.
Outtakes from Hüsker Dü's Warehouse: Songs and Stories album cover session shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: Tell me about Warehouse: Songs and Stories. You shot it inside a studio?
DC: It was done in the studio where the album was recorded. Isn’t that cool? I think that’s cool.
LK: Were the columns there or did you guys bring in and arrange everything you shot?
DC: The columns were part of the props. Grant got them somewhere. Grant got all the weeds and stuff that we gathered together and did all of the painting processes on them.
LK: With spray paint?
DC: Yeah, we spray-painted all of that foliage and then used the same technique where it was that dark, totally pitch-black studio and an open shutter. Then we used prescribed amounts of time on the different elements in the photograph. It was Grant's idea to arrange it that way.
My favorite part of the picture…if you look at the album, you can see it. On the right-hand-side, there's a pillar and at the bottom, there’s a cartoon mouse hole. You know what I mean, with the arch and the black hole? It looks like a cartoon mouse hole. To this day, when I look at that picture that's where my eye is drawn.
Soul Asylum – Clam Dip & Other Delights (Twin/Tone, 1988). Cover photo by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: You've also been good friends with Soul Asylum for years. How long had you been shooting them before you started going on tour with them and working on album covers?
DC: They're a Twin/Tone band, so that is how I originally became involved with them. I shot a number of photos of those guys and I did a number of music videos. At one point in my career, I had a chance to pursue music video. But the thing about music video is that it's so much more complicated and you cannot do them yourself. You have to have many other people involved in it. But I did "Sometime To Return," which Dave Pirner says is his favorite video.
LK: Were you taking the tour footage with a plan to make a video?
DC: Yeah, it was recorded for the video. I actually went to Europe with them. I got my first trip to Europe through Soul Asylum. I went as a stagehand and videographer. Pirner loves telling the story where I perfectly tuned his guitar an octave too high and broke the neck on it. That was my short history as a guitar tech.
In the van with Soul Asylum, 1988 and live shot of Dave Pirner, 1992. Photos by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: When you are filming or photographing a band on tour for that purpose, do you ever find that they are playing to the camera more than they would, say if you were just shooting them at a local gig for a paper?
DC: Maybe to start out with, but after a while, I am not even there. Musicians are surrounded when they are working. When they get to a venue, they are surrounded by crew guys who are packing stuff up and taking it apart, so they are used to having people around. I was just another one of those fucking production guys, you know? They don’t even notice. I spent a month in the studio with Matchbox Twenty. When I first started, it was like, “Oh, there’s a photographer here.” But like in a second, they just tune it out, which is fine. There is a certain amount of trust that I'm not going to shoot pictures of them doing stuff that they are going to be ashamed of or embarrassed by down the line. That’s kind of the code of the road.
LK: You shot Clam Dip & Other Delights, which was a parody of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights. What did you think when they approached you with this? Was it Karl Mueller’s idea?
DC: It was the band's idea. I think Dave Ayres approached me with it. We had the original album right there it was just a matter of holding it up and getting the lights right and the angle right and then the rest was just being kind of goofy. It was a very interesting project. I loved Karl. He was the most beautiful soul. He was a really good friend of mine and having him in the picture made it for me. Anyone else would not have worked.
LK: Tell me about the session.
DC: Karl was sitting on the top of a crate and we put a muslin drop over him from the waist down. Then we slathered that drop with a five-gallon bucket of lard that we colored with coffee to get it the right sort of clam dip color. We had a few pints of actual clam dip that went on top of that. One of the stylists went to the market and got the fish heads we used to adorn the top of it.
LK: Did he regret it after he had to sit there covered in that concoction?
DC: No, not at all. He probably sat in place with this muslin drop on top of him and twenty pounds of fish dip for a couple of hours. He was great. Karl was about as crazy a character as you'll ever run into, so I don’t
think that was a problem. But the studio smelled like dead fish for weeks afterward.
Babes in Toyland - Spanking Machine (Twin/Tone, 1990). Cover photo by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: I’ve read in other interviews that you wished you were asked about the Babes in Toyland Spanking Machine cover more often. To me, it’s one of the most memorable visual representations of the riot grrl movement. What was it that you liked so much about that cover and the experience of shooting it?
DC: I didn’t realize that. They wanted to do something with a bunch of dolls. A bunch of dolls and three beautiful girls - that’s what I started with. We had scaffolding set up in my studio, got them all arranged, and so I was shooting straight down on them as they were laying on that pile of dolls. I love the idea of really limiting the space and the depth of field of a photograph. A photograph is basically a flat plane across the front. It starts off as a flat plane and then you can do stuff beyond that. I loved the idea of having a compressed layer with the action taking place within this very select depth of field, so you have this flat image that is still dense. I just really liked the concept and how it works as a portrait.
Babes in Toyland Spanking Machine promo photo and outtakes shot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: There’s an early photograph of The Suburbs featured in the book in which the members are laying on top of some beer cases, and you mentioned earlier you shot Hüsker Dü on a pile of old typewriters. You've used a variation of that idea a few times.
DC: That is kind of curious. My very first show featured a hundred pictures - a hundred 8x10's. And my second show was a thousand 8x10’s across various genres. We got all of these hundreds of photos up and I looked at them and it was like, “I do the same trick over and over again.”
LK: How so?
DC: No matter what I'm shooting, they are all kind of the same. They all have a vertical, they all have a horizontal, and they all have a diagonal. They are all broken up into thirds. It's the same picture over and over again. I was kind of afraid when I got all these pictures up that I'd tipped my hand. There it is. All you have to do is this and you can do my job.
LK: That speaks to you having a style.
DC: I do definitely have a style and it’s a hopeless crutch!
Prince live at First Avenue. Photo by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: It would be impossible to talk about your experiences in the Minneapolis music scene without talking about Prince. Because of Purple Rain, for many years I thought First Avenue primarily booked R&B, funk and dance artists during the eighties. I didn't know about the variety of musical acts the venue hosted throughout the years. Is that common?
DC: When I worked as a stagehand for First Avenue, one of my security spots was at the load-in door and during nice weather, I got to sit out on the sidewalk behind the club. Whenever someone came up and asked me if Prince still owned the club, I'd tell them, “Yeah, he comes in and makes us pancakes on Sundays.” I told that story for a long time. Prince never owned the club, but I still have many people ask if he owned it. But there is a connection between Prince and First Avenue you can’t get around. Purple Rain made the club famous. The two kind of go hand in hand. Prince chose to film Purple Rain at First Avenue for a reason. This is the club. It's an amazing venue.
LK: How often did you shoot him over the years?
DC: I think I shot five or six shows. You had to be careful to shoot from the aisles, not from the front. I was crouched down in a side-aisle with a few other photographers at The Orpheum one night when I saw his bodyguard, Chick, coming up toward us. I thought, “Well, I did something, I’m getting thrown out.” He walked past me, grabbed another photographer who wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, dragged him out and never came back.
LK: He did ban you guys from the Purple Rain set. Or was that you, specifically?
DC: He knew I was the First Avenue house photographer. I'd had a number of very good pictures of him published by the time Purple Rain began filming. He said no photographers were allowed on the set, but the manager who came to kick me out when I showed up told me Prince specifically said, “Dan Corrigan is not allowed.”
LK: Then later you almost became his tour photographer.
DC: That was a curious thing. It wasn’t until years later that I knew what happened. I got a call one night at 10 pm saying, “Can you be out to Paisley Park by 10:30?” Now, that's physically impossible! But you say “yes” and hurry out there. I got out there and somebody says, “Wait here,” and they put me in a room. I waited there for like four hours, just enough to charge a full day. Then they came and said, “Oh, we don’t need you tonight.” I've been there four and a half hours. That's a full day. They said, “No problem.”
The next night, the same thing happens, but I'm ready. I brought a book along. Eventually, when it's going into a day and a half, they had me go stand near where this music video shoot was going on. I stood there for a couple of hours until it finally it looked like something’s going on, and I thought, “Oh, now is my time.” I had a camera meter, so I took my camera out to look through the meter to check my shutter speed for when they finally said, “Go.” As I took my camera out, Prince looked back, waved his lucite swagger stick at me and said, "Not yet!" Those were the only words he ever spoke to me. So, I put my camera back in my bag and I just stood there for another three hours in this one fucking spot. I ended up billing like three and a half full days and they totally paid. Never took a picture. Years later I found out that - and it has the ring of truth - I was being auditioned for his tour photographer spot, but they hired someone else. That is my Prince story.
LK: When you shot him on assignment, did you ever hear from any of his representatives? He was notorious for trying to control his images. Did your editors ever run into any problems with publishing his photos?
DC: All the time. But at First Avenue we have a restaurant called the Old Tavern and it's decorated with three hundred of my photographs from the last thirty-five years. None of them are for sale, but when you walk in, the very first picture is of Prince. How could I have any pictures of First Avenue and not have Prince there? We were worried about it, just having the one the wall. He must not have cared because we never got any heat for it...he was respectful of the club.
LK: You said his passing had changed things for First Avenue. Can you tell me a little more about that?
DC: It kind of turned First Avenue into sort of a Prince shrine. Everyday somebody comes by and touches Prince's star on the outside of the building, at least once.
LK: Were you there when the news broke?
DC: I was up doing some rewiring on the ceiling and I got a text that Prince had died. I went over right over to where his star is and I saw this woman coming across the street with a bouquet of white flowers. She was sobbing and she laid them down underneath the star. It was the very first thing laid down there.
LK: Let's talk about this wonderful book of your work, Heyday. What has this whole experience been like?
DC: I'm super glad that it’s kind of behind me. For literally fifteen years the book has been a great idea, and people always said, “When are you doing a book?” And some people said, “Oh we have to do a book!” It just came down to most people only interested in making money off of my content. Which is not great, but that's what book people do. A couple of years ago, we came really close to having it done, but at the last minute the editor of the book got either fired or got a new job, so it completely evaporated. I had given up on it. A little over a year ago, I was giving a talk on a panel about music photography. Two of the people in the audience started talking with me. One of them, Josh Leventhal, ended up being the editor for the book, and the other one, Danny Sigelman, ended up being the co-author. Those two got the book done. All I did was say yes. They went through my archives. I didn't do any editing at all. I had no say in what was in the book. I think that was the only way to get it done and I'm really happy with it. They did a beautiful job.
LK: Did you have any notion of the volume of work you had in your archives?
DC: Yeah, and that's the thing that had stymied most attempts to do it. It's like, “Where do I start?” I literally had hundreds of pounds of negatives and several hundred pounds of prints. I live in a vault because my archives kind of got wedged into one of the rooms I have now. It is overwhelming and that is why I was hugely impressed by the wherewithal those two had in them to tackle it. I think took them like three months’ worth of Sundays to finish working on it.
Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2016)
LK: Did they check in with you during the process to give you an idea of what they were including?
DC: No. I had no idea what was in the book until I saw it.
LK: What did you think about the cover? The cover alone really sells the book.
DC: The interesting thing about the cover is that image that wasn’t taken for anybody. I took it because I thought it looked interesting at the time. It never went anywhere, never lived anywhere, nobody ever asked to make it a press picture. I think it’s interesting that that's the one that made the cover.
LK: How did Dave Pirner like being on the cover?
DC: Dave and I have a really good relationship and I think he's proud to be on it.
LK: While you were going through the book, did anything come back to you that you hadn’t thought about in a long time?
DC: There was an outtake from the Let It Be shoot I had completely forgotten. The one where Bob Stinson is pretending to kick the dog off the roof. Most of them I remembered. I have this weird thing, like once I print a picture, it becomes part of my memory. That was the thing about the roof pictures. I had never seen those printed; they were on proof sheets. But if I have made a print of something, it's indelibly etched in my mind, so there weren't really any huge surprises. Finding a lot of the old polaroids and actually holding them in my hand after twenty years was kind of cool. There's a tactile quality to pictures. I'm kind of running on this new theory now that a photograph really isn't a picture until it becomes a print. It’s an image up to that point. Images are super powerful, but it doesn’t become a real photograph until you can hold it.
LK: It doesn’t seem to evoke the same feeling when you see a picture on a website as it does when you are holding it, seeing it displayed, or looking at it in a book…or even on an album cover.
DC: Seeing a picture on a website can be hugely influential. Maybe it doesn’t have to be something you hold in your hand for it to be impactful, but it is a different critter when it is in your hand.
Black Flag live at First Avenue, 1984. Photo by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: The book features a really balanced overview of your career. It covers your early black and white portraits, live photos from a variety of venues, your album artwork and also your more recent work. What were the different kinds of challenges between doing a portrait or a set-up shot versus a live photo?
DC: I love the one on one portrait because it's an easy way to connect. Somebody recently posted that the camera doesn’t take the picture, it doesn’t make the portrait, it's the people on both sides of the camera who make the portrait. I just love that so much. It’s so true. I love that interaction. It’s the most important part. You can bring all the lighting and all the technical bullshit that you want, but the exchange between the photographer and the subject is so huge. Sometimes all the technology gets in the way of that connection.
With live stuff, that's just a matter of taking what you're given, not getting in anyone’s way and seeing what you can come up with. Album covers inspire an artistic idea that could be anything. Any idea that somebody has, and you have to try to figure out how to make it happen.
David Byrne at Walker Art Center, 1984. Phot by Daniel Corrigan.
LK: Do you prefer one over another?
DC: I love the simplicity of portraits because that's mostly just making a nice picture. Let's take a flattering picture. Let's make you look beautiful. I like that connection and I'm good at that. I love meeting new people and I love taking pictures of them. With portraits, what I'm looking for mostly is if I can take a picture that looks well-settled. Everything is where it should be. Whereas, when I'm shooting live, I'm looking for a slice of something dynamic. So you can tell that something big was happening right then.
LK: Do you think First Avenue will ever publish their own book of your work?
DC: They could just take the three hundred pictures in the restaurant, add a little caption and do a softcover. We could probably sell thousands of them. I'm not really sure why we don’t do that. They aren’t really in the publishing business. But it’s a great idea.
For more of Daniel Corrigan's work, see the gallery below: