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The ultimate rock photographer has seen, and captured, it all
Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1987. Shot backstage at First Avenue nightclub. The band would go on to use this photo on one of their albums. (Photo by: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/GettyImages)

The first ever magazine to feature the work of now-veteran rock photographer Jimmy Steinfeldt, back in 1985, was, you guessed it, SPIN. He was just starting out, and we printed his photo of George Thorogood, mid-guitar riff, in the middle of a show. George was a star then, kids.

Jimmy’s come a long way since then, almost four decades ago.

You could call Steinfeldt a concert photographer, live-action, or a rock and roll profile photographer. His studio photography came later down the road after moving to L.A.

George Thorogood, 1985. My very first photo published in a national magazine, SPIN. This led to being issued my first press credential and my being part of the original SPIN Patrol [a column in the early issues of the magazine]. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt)

He’d grown up in Minneapolis and in the mid-’80s would frequent First Avenue, where he knew the owner and got a leg up with his hot-ticket free-entry friend deal. He had a natural eye, he loved going to concerts, he loved music, that was his shtick, so after ditching his bachelor’s in business management, he hit the rock concert circuit armed with his $100 Minolta camera. With his signature mop of blond curly hair, tinted glasses, and Howard Stern-ish looks, he was recognizable and became known and trusted by the bands he’d shoot. He’d found his yellow brick road, but you had to be some kind of great talent to be shot by him.

He can’t recall exactly who his first shoot was, but believes it was ZZ Top, although Stevie Nicks on her solo tour really moved him. It was 1982-83, and he discovered Kodak film that could shoot well in low light. It was a faster film and was a game-changer for him.

He photographed fellow Minneapolite Prince in his early days, going on to shoot basically everyone… Michael Jackson, Madonna, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bowie, Elton John, Bob Dylan. Not many escaped his lens.

Prince, 1983. This was the first time I photographed my fellow Minnesotan. Soon after, when I met him in person, he was kind enough to refer me to his management. I photographed many of his concerts for the next 14 years. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt)
David Bowie, 1997. From a very special performance at the Hollywood Athletic Club. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt)

He moved to L.A. in 1996, opening a studio in Culver City before finding a house nestled in Laurel Canyon off Mulholland Drive. Built by a Star Wars producer, it had large windows and epic light, which made for a great studio base.

His photography has graced album covers and many a magazine and pop culture site. In 1998, he won “Photographer of the Year” at the L.A. Music Awards, then won it again in 2007. That’s camera royalty right there.

He has published two coffee table books: Rock ‘N’ Roll Lens Volumes I and II – 30 Years of Music Photography and Stories. He wants people to see his work in tangible photo-form rather than on a screen, and we get it. His photos are available as various size prints on his website.

ZZ Top, 1990. This photo and many others I took of the band, including at the Harley Davidson 90th Reunion, led to my getting to know the band and photographing ZZ Top and Billy Gibbons many more times. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt)

I caught up with him in the desert last week, where he’s recently moved and is about to open his new studio in La Quinta near Palm Springs.

Steinfeldt and his longtime friend from “the Prince days,” backing singer and female lead in the film Purple Rain, Apollonia, (“who has always been a great advocate“) are co-hosting an event there showcasing his work on October 28. The reception and exhibition will include a sale of original shots of major iconic musicians, the (for-now secret) location being provided on the invite.

“Basically this event is the kickoff for my new studio here in the desert,” Steinfeldt told me. “The show is invite-only. However, if people RSVP [see below — you can get in too if you want], I will add them to the guest list. I will continue the show after the opening ‘til the end of November, by appointment only. “

Radiohead, 1997. Special because the guys were great and it’s one of my earliest portrait sessions. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/GettyImages)
Sheryl Crow, 1997. I greatly admire her talent. I appreciate too that she always said hi to me when we’d run into each other. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt)

“The pictures are all available on my website. [But] the Radiohead photo and Red Hot Chili Pepper photo, as well as a different Prince photo, Willie Nelson, and also Apollonia are available only at the October 28 show as 1/1 limited-edition prints signed by me, in 20 x 30-inch size.”  

He says he’s working on a third book.

“It is not about music photography, it’s about movies! It’s called Hitchcock’s Shadow — Conversations with The Great Directors. I am interviewing the legends on how they were influenced by my favorite director, Hitchcock. I’ve interviewed about 15, including Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, John Woo, Roger Corman, and Mark Rydell. I look forward to adding about 15 more.

“I continue to shoot album covers (if we still call them that) and publicity photos for recording artists and also still do concert photography.”

Jimmy Steinfeldt is not slowing down yet.

For the show on October 28  from 4 to 7pm RSVP [email protected] or [email protected]