With the onset of the 30th anniversary of R.E.M., we asked a few photographers who have worked with the band over the years to send along the image they like the best for the occasion. Four answered the call, Sandra Lee Phipps and Laura Levine from the early days of R.E.M., and Anton Corbijn and David Belisle from more recently– but not THAT recently! Here are their photographs and their remembrances and to each of them we are grateful for this sharing.
“This is certainly not my favorite nor my best work but certainly relevant to the occasion of R.E.M.’s 30th anniversary. These photos are the only ones i think that document that first show at the church. What I always remember is that this was one of the first live shows i ever tried to document and i really didn’t know how to use my camera, which i think is in keeping with the the band in that they weren’t quite sure what they were doing either. So we were all learning how to use our instruments. these four singular images were one taken one frame after the other and then i believe i put my camera down and have a very fuzzy memory of what happened next…….. i’m sure it was slightly illegal and i just know it was wonderful youthful fun.
p.s.- Want to give a tip of the hat this weekend as well to my dad Tony who this week passed and who around this time helped R.E.M. get their first van. Happy trails pop-pops.”
Limited-edition archival R.E.M. prints available on request.
“Dear Michael, Peter, Mike, Bill, Bertis and all the kind folks at R.E.M. HQ,
Congratulations on thirty years! I’m so happy I was invited to come along for the ride and document four of them (years Two through Five).
Of the hundred and hundreds of photos we shot together between 1982 and 1985 it’s darn near impossible to pick my favorite darling of the bunch; I love them all. But I think I’ll go with the photograph of you all at Walter’s Bar-B-Que which I took in Athens in 1984. (March 6th, to be precise).
I remember that day well. You were just about to release Reckoning and I’d flown myself down to Athens to shoot photos of you all and finally see this town which you’d told me so much about and which I’d already fallen in love with. For several days you were all so patient with me as I schlepped you to every nook and cranny that had photogenic possibilities – railroad tracks, abandoned factories, trees covered in kudzu, roadside signs, R.A. Miller’s whirlygig yard, and of course, Walter’s Bar-B-Que. In fact, I’m pretty sure we stopped at Walter’s simply because we were hungry and wanted to grab some lunch between shots. But, never allowing an opportunity for a good photo to pass me by, I shot all through lunch too. I’m afraid I didn’t even allow you to eat your meals in peace.
And, since everyone always asks, that’s my plate of ribs sitting in front of Michael.
I think the fact that we were all friends brought an extra level of fun and trust to the process of shooting photos, which can sometimes, I realize, be a drag for musicians. It means a lot to me, thirty years on, to still be considered part of the R.E.M. family. Loyalty, friendship and history have always very important to you, as it is to me, and you consistently show it in many ways.
This photograph has a special place in my heart not only because of that friendship, but because it documents a time and a place that disappeared soon thereafter. All of the time I spent with you, and all the time I spent visiting Athens was so special to me. It was a very happy time…. of fun, youth, experimentation and endless potential. I don’t suppose any us of could have imagined how much would change in just a few year’s time. It captures those last moments of innocence, before you moved on to the wonderful successes that you did. But mostly, for me, when I look at this photograph, I see my four friends being themselves, relaxing, smiling, and chowing down on a good meal.
p.s. I’m proud that this image was chosen to be exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum as part of Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present (traveling on to several other museums for the next few years). In conjunction with the museum exhibit I’ve recently released an edition of prints of the image which can be found here.
“GETTING UP 6AM ON A BEAUTIFUL STRETCH OF FLORIDA COASTLINE’ – those were the days ! 1992” -Anton
“I love this one of all 4 from Dewitt’s wedding at Kingpins in Athens… October 2005. Gang of Four. That wedding was so much fun…. Love it love it. I’m always so proud of the band, and not cheeky one bit. “
“I always enjoy the opportunity to photograph musicians that don’t often share the same stage. Especially for a strong cause . This was a historic time and I was fortunate enough to be there. D.C.”