This image was taken in September 1981, at the Longview Farm Studio, North Brookfield in the Massachusetts countryside. I had started shooting in 1979 and up to this point, I had photographed lots of reggae and punk artists of no major international importance. This was my first big break to photograph the then living gods of rock – The Rolling Stones, exclusively – one on one.
First up was Keith Richards, the living embodiment of cool and already a living legend. It was well after midnight and the shoot was to take place in a room in the barn of the farm. One of the walls was constructed of beautiful brown wooden boards, like floorboards, set at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal which was unusual and a white ceiling. I decided to use bounce flash on the ceiling and the wooden wall as my in-situ background. My camera at the time was a Nikkormat FTN – a no frills camera with a manual exposure meter, film loaded at the back and a lens at the front. This was 1981 – no portable lighting was available or automatic exposure meters and digital imaging had not even been invented. I was shooting Kodak Ektachrome at 100asa and from experience, knew the exposure would be f4 at 1/60 sec with my Metz on full manual power bounced off a low white ceiling. So, all I had to do was just concentrate on composing my shots and getting the rock god to come down to earth.
He came in and we were introduced and exchanged a few polite words. When I asked him to sit at the table, Keith Richards immediately leaned back on the wall, put his feet up on the table, lit a cigarette and composed his cool. For the next ten minutes, I was in telepathic communication with the rock god. It was magical. As if by telepathy, he knew exactly what I wanted him to do, where and when to stand, sit, look at me, hold his cigarette, smile, lean a bit to the left, right, forward, etc. He said nothing, just went through his repertoire of poses with me prompting him … good, great, again, one more … as I moved around the room composing and shooting until one roll was finished. (Back then, cameras had no motor-drives, no LCD’s to check – you just composed each shot as you waited for the flash to recycle and then press the shutter. If you didn’t know what you were doing or lacked confidence, it would have shown and your subject would have doubted your ability). Afterwards he shook my hand, smiled, and drawled : “That was nice and easy”. I left the farm on a major high.
I could not process my film until after I got back to England a few days later, but when I saw the results, I knew I had captured something special. This image has continued to sell over and over for the past 25 years and is the most enduring and iconic image I have ever taken and one which made picture editors take note of my name and still does.
George Chin has been a professional photographer since 1979 working in the music industry. His work is a combination of editorial portraiture, live concert photography, location and studio sessions. His photographs have been published in all the major music magazines worldwide and his CV lists The Rolling Stones among the many bands and artists he has been the official photographer to. For the past three years, his photographs have been widely published in the UK national press. His clients are music publications and record companies in the UK, Japan, Germany and the USA. As well as bands and artists who have a need for his specialist photographic skills.
Photographer since 1979, EPUK member since 2006.
See more work by George Chin