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Portrait of a rock star

Tamara Miller
Lynn GoldsmithThis mosaic of Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons is made up of photos Lynn Goldsmith took over four years.
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For every photo Lynn Goldsmith had published of Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen, there were dozens more that had never left the confines of her photo drawer.

“I can print up everything, and sometimes, I feel that my pictures are like my children, and it’s unfair that they never get out of the drawer,” said Goldsmith, who has a studio in Basalt.

While searching for a “break” from her current project, a book of self-portraits, she decided to rifle through her photo archive for those pushed-aside, but not-forgotten photos. And she came up with an idea that encapsulated Goldsmith’s three-decade-long career as a portrait photographer of rock stars.

Four years worth of Kiss photos now have their place in a mosaic of the lead singer, Gene Simmons. Snapshots of the Rolling Stones have been compiled into a composite of Mick Jagger’s face.

“There’s no real image there,” she said. “There’s really just thousands of photographs and tiles, and you think you are seeing one image.”

For Goldsmith, image has been everything.

In 1976, she founded LGI Photo Agency, an organization that represented the work of more than 200 photographers. LGI was one of the first agencies to specialize in celebrity portraits for magazines and books. Goldsmith sold the business in the late 1990s, but her status as a celebrity portrait photographer has been set in stone.

Goldsmith’s portrait subjects have run the gamut of President Bill Clinton to indie film fave Clea Duvall. But her career as a rock photographer has garnered her the most fame. She was named as one of the top 10 photographers in the history of rock ‘n’ roll by American Photo magazine and has published photo books on old flame Bruce Springsteen, New Kids on the Block and The Police.

Goldsmith’s work was part of a rock and roll exhibition at a Denver gallery, which also included work from Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, said Kurt Caven, manager of Vail’s Gateway Gallery. That exhibition was well-received along The Front Range.

In her book, “Photo Diary,” which includes snapshots of artists ranging from David Byrne to Luther Vandross, Goldsmith explains her personal connection to music: “Later, during my college years, musicians influenced the way I thought. We were soldiers out to change ideas about what to wear, where to war and just be. We were unified by the music, this is why musicians became the dominant subjects in my photography.”

Being a portrait photographer isn’t always about showing the rock star for who he or she really is, though.

“I have photographed not only rock stars, but famous actors, politicians, a range of people who are extremely famous,” she said, “and so my job, when I did that, was to make people look the way that they want other people to see them.”

Goldsmith’s current project, called “In the Looking Glass,” is a series of stylized self-portraits. The photographer calls it “an investigation of how identity is constructed.”

“I actually got motivated to do them because I, like many people, question who I am,” she said.

Tamara Miller can be reached for comment at tmiller@vailtrail.com.


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