Beautiful New Photo Book Documents Patti Smith’s Breakthrough Years in Music: Features Hundreds of Unseen Photographs

Pat­ti Smith is always sur­pris­ing her fans with new work and new oppor­tu­ni­ties to admire her com­mit­ment to art and activism. If she isn’t pub­lish­ing anoth­er mem­oir, or lead­ing 250 peo­ple in a protest song, she’s show­ing her pho­tographs, which she’s tak­en since the 60s, with Polaroid cam­eras and a Ger­man Minox 35EL. “I am not a pho­tog­ra­ph­er,” she says, “yet tak­ing pic­tures has giv­en me a sense of uni­ty and per­son­al sat­is­fac­tion. They are relics of my life. Sou­venirs of my wan­der­ing.” She sur­prised her fans once again by putting her trea­sury of pic­tures on Insta­gram.

But as com­fort­able as Smith has been behind the cam­era, she has been even more relaxed in front of it: “wide­ly regard­ed as a style icon,” writes Stephanie Eckardt at W mag­a­zine, “she’s been a mag­net for pho­tog­ra­phers almost imme­di­ate­ly” after she arrived in New York “to hang around CBG­B’s and pose for Robert Map­plethor­pe.”

She appeared in plen­ty of pho­tos with Map­plethor­pe when the two were just kids. Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Frank Ste­fanko cap­tured her bohemi­an loung­ing in the 60s and 70s in stark black and white. (When he first encoun­tered her in South Jer­sey, he says, she looked like “the bad guy walk­ing into a saloon in an old West­ern movie.”)

“There are many pho­tog­ra­phers who have pho­tographed Pat­ti who are won­der­ful artists,” writes Lynn Gold­smith, whose own strik­ing pho­to­graph­ic record of Smith’s career is now being pub­lished in a new book by Taschen titled Before East­er After. Unlike Gold­smith, how­ev­er, “they did not do doc­u­men­tary as well as con­cert as well as stu­dio work with her. So that enabled Pat­ti and I to have a nar­ra­tive in the book that we could share with peo­ple of what was going on at that time.”

Smith describes what was going on with her usu­al casu­al lyri­cism:

We traipsed the path of rock ‘n’ roll, savour­ing its swag­ger, yet dodg­ing the pit­falls. [Lynn] wit­nessed for­ma­tive nights at CBG­Bs, gain­ing ground across Amer­i­ca, my acci­dent in a Tam­pa are­na, and the strug­gle to rise again.

She refers to her fall off­stage in 1977 while the band toured their album Radio Ethiopia. She broke her neck and spent the year recov­er­ing. Gold­smith cap­tured the trag­ic event: “I saw her near­ing the edge of the stage, but I thought she knew what she was doing because she always did this turn­ing dervish on that song, where she spun and spun and spun.”  The fol­low­ing year, the band released East­er, their third and “most wide­ly known and dis­trib­uted” album, notes AnOth­er, and Gold­smith ner­vous­ly shot Smith onstage at CBG­Bs in a neck brace.

The pho­tog­ra­ph­er sur­prised Smith by ask­ing her long­time friend Sam Shep­ard to write a poem for the book inspired by the 1977 pho­to above. And at the book’s Octo­ber 8th launch par­ty, which includ­ed Hen­ry Rollins, Rosan­na Arquette, Moon Zap­pa, and John Dens­more, Smith sur­prised her 150 guests by play­ing a set of songs “inspired by Goldsmith’s pre­vi­ous unseen pho­tographs of the trans­for­ma­tive peri­od doc­u­ment­ed in the book,” writes Taschen. “She end­ed her set with her best-known hit ‘Because the Night’ from the album East­er… joined in song by every per­son in the room.”

The book is avail­able in a pricey edi­tion from Taschen. Here’s hop­ing they’ll sur­prise Pat­ti Smith fans for the hol­i­days with a paper­back.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith, The God­moth­er of Punk, Is Now Putting Her Pic­tures on Insta­gram

Pat­ti Smith Sings “Peo­ple Have the Pow­er” with a Choir of 250 Fel­low Singers

Pat­ti Smith’s 40 Favorite Books

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Akio Hirotsu says:

    Is it pos­si­ble to pur­chase from Japan ?

  • Sara says:

    Please email me. I will pur­chase it for you:)

  • Akio Hirotsu says:

    Thanks Sara.
    But the prob­lem is solved.

    For deliv­er­ies to: Japan.

    Stan­dard Ship­ping
    The ship­ping fee is USD 50. Any excep­tions are labeled accord­ing­ly. Avail­able items will be charged and dis­patched imme­di­ate­ly and deliv­ered with­in 8 busi­ness days. Back­o­rders will be charged and dis­patched as soon as they become avail­able. You will receive track­ing infor­ma­tion by email when your order has been shipped. Please note that P.O. Box address­es are not accept­ed.

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