On Photography: Lynn Goldsmith, 1948-present
“I didn’t try to have millions of pictures of rock and roll people. I didn’t think I was on the path to getting the title ‘Rock and Roll Photographer.’ It’s just what happened to me.” -Lynn Goldsmith
Lynn Goldsmith considers herself an entrepreneur and a self-taught artist. She is well known as a rock and roll photographer. She is so much more. Her accomplishments are many and legend.
Opening photo, top row, l-r: Roger Daltry, Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, Tina Turner and Freddy Mercury. Bottom row, l-r: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page-Led Zepplin, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.
Director’s Guild of America
Lynn Goldsmith is the youngest member to become a member of the DGA — the Director’s Guild of America.
Lynn Goldsmith was a director for Joshua Television, the company that brought magnified video of rock performers to big screens in stadium shows. She worked as a director on the ABC TV show “In Concert.” She directed the 1973 documentary film “We’re an American Band’ the first short music film released in theaters. By the mid 1970s she left directing to manage one of the most popular bands of the time, Grand Funk Railroad.
Lynn Goldsmith wrote and produced the early 1980s Island Records album “Dancing for Mental Health.” She worked with renowned artists on that first album including the hit “Kissing with Confidence” which reached #3 in Great Britain. She collaborated with Nile Rogers, Steve Winwood, Todd Rundgren and Sting on the record.
Lynn Goldsmith, working under the pseudonym Will Powers, produced and directed videos for the album. The United States Department of Labor showed them to unemployed young people. The National Marriage Counsel in England shared them with the young in Britain. Powers’ videos helped Harvard and other schools improve their language teaching programs.
Lynn Goldsmith’s beginnings started by being in a band herself — The Walking Wounded — at the University of Michigan. She graduated in three years with a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology.
Agency for celebrity photos
In 1976, photo agencies concentrated on news photography for publication in newspapers and magazines. Lynn Goldsmith knew, well before others, that celebrity portraits were an untapped market the public would clamor to see. She founded LGI Photo Agency which represented over two hundred photographers worldwide. Her awareness paid off as the public moved from world happenings to wanting pictures of the biggest names in entertainment.
Books and awards
Lynn Goldsmith has published 12 books on subjects ranging from “Circus Dreams” to “Springsteen Access All Areas” to “The Looking Glass.” She has books on the artists, Patti Smith, Kiss, The Police and New Kids.
Her awards are numerous. The PPA Lifetime Achievement Award, 2 Annual Black and White Spider Awards, The Lucie Award — Achievement in Portraiture and three Art Director’s Club awards to name just a small selection.
Lynn Goldsmith’s list of exhibits featuring her work is too numerous to mention. Cities that have hosted her work range around the world. Boston, Paris, New York, Kashan, Trondheim, London, Los Angeles and on and on around the globe.
Warhol v. Goldsmith
Lynn Goldsmith photographed Prince in concert and then in her studio in 1981 for Newsweek. “Purple Rain” was released three years later. Vanity Fair commissioned Warhol to create an image for their article “Purple Flame.” Lynn Goldsmith received $400.00 from the magazine to license one of her studio portraits of Prince as an artist reference for Warhol. They agreed to credit her and to use it only in the issue featuring the article.
Warhol did 16 versions of Lynn Goldsmith’s Prince photo. The variations included different crops and coloring. Vanity Fair ran one of them.
When Warhol died in 1987, his works became the property of the Andy Warhol Foundation. The foundation sold some of the series for six figures.
Prince died in 2016. Vanity Fair paid the Andy Warhol Foundation $10,250 to use another image in the series for a cover. Lynn Goldsmith was not credited or paid.
Lawsuits were filed and the case is still in litigation. Recently, the case has made it’s way to the Supreme Court. Lynn Goldsmith was and is a staunch advocate for artists’s copyrights.
This 9-minute documentary tells her story in Lynn Goldsmith’s own words.
More stories about inspirational photographers are in On Photography.