In almost 30 years as a rock photographer, Janette Beckman, who looks like a dark-haired Patricia Field, has seen it all. A show of her favorite photographs—from “Boy George to OutKast,” she says—just opened in Gallery 216 at Lafayette Street.
So who was the roughest to shoot?
Carole King—she was having a “comeback” around 1989, and she’d noticed some street corner in Harlem on her way to the airport and insisted on being shot there. So I had to sweep the crack vials off the stoop while she stood and watched me in her full-length fur coat.
And then, of course, there was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It was written in their contract that they could have a crate of Moët at every shoot, and they wanted a bunch of girls in Lurex bikinis. And a white Rolls-Royce. They drank all the champagne, Melle Mel had a whip, and Cowboy never showed up, so we had one of the roadies dress up like him.
And then there was the time I was supposed to shoot Salt and Pepa, and Salt was all ready and I said, “Where’s Pepa?” And she said, “Oh, Pepa’s in Florida.”
How have rockers changed over the years?
Well, I remember shooting Johnny Rotten. His place was a total mess—beer cans, spliffs, a lot of people hanging out. We took the shot, and then we went to the pub and he pissed into his beer glass. And then we had a curry. Things were really raw back then, and if there was a zit, you showed a zit. Now you’ve got a team of stylists leaping into the frame if a hair is out of place.
Have you ever shot Michael Jackson?
No! But I think I’d be good at it. People tell me I’m very empathetic.