Photographer, Paul Natkin Shows Us Art In The Music

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Photographer, Paul Natkin Shows Us Art In The Music

Northwest Side Artist Celebrated with Exhibit At Ed Paschke Art Center

If you’ve seen a picture of your favorite musician, and it made you feel the excitement of a live music show, there is a good chance that man behind the camera was image-master, Paul Natkin.

Paul began taking pictures of musicians nearly forty years ago, when he brought his camera to a Bonnie Raitt show, and didn’t object when the security guard assumed that he was hired by the band.

By this time, he had already earned his chops as a sports photographer, working for the Chicago Bulls. He had been mentored by his Father, Robert Natkin, who was a respected photographer in his own right. Paul quickly learned how to tell compelling stories with pictures. He knew how to fill his frames with context that touched his viewers on an elemental level that didn’t require a caption. Above all, he learned that there are a million wrong moments to take a picture, but only one right one. It is the decisive moment when a gesture or an emotion is perfect, and makes a connection without an explanation.

Bob Marley horizontal

Bob Marley

He soon figured out that he could translate his excitement to his love of music. With his first experience shooting a music show under his belt, Paul began a transition to specializing in photographing music shows and portraits of musicians. Through perseverance, he started acquiring magazine and newspaper clients, and began working with record company publicity departments.

During the 1980’s he was a frequent contributor to Creem Magazine, along with many other music magazines (Rolling Stone, Circus, Hit Parader) as well as many mainstream magazines, including Newsweek, Time, People, Playboy, Ebony and Entertainment Weekly.

Paul also started landing commissions to soot album covers for major label artists (Ozzy Osbourne, Alanis Morissette, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter) and many indie labels (Alligator, Delmark and Blind Pig).

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

June of 1984 was a particularly great month. Assignments included Prince’s birthday party in Minneapolis, the start of the Jackson 5 Victory Tour in Kansas City, and the beginning of the Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA tour in St. Paul (which included photographing the filming of Bruce’s first video – for the song “Dancing in the Dark”).

This paid off in 1985 when one of his pictures of Bruce appeared on the cover of Newsweek. 1985 also brought numerous magazine covers around the world featuring photos from Prince’s party. The publicity from the Newsweek cover led to a five year stint as the staff photographer of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In 1988, a chance discussion with Keith Richards’ manager led to work on Keith’s Xpensive Winos Tour as the official photographer. His artful exposures and easy-going nature led to more work with the Rolling Stones as the tour photographer for the 1989 Steel Wheels tour. Then came the Voodoo Lounge tour in 1994 and the Bridges to Babylon tour in 1997.

James Brown

James Brown

It makes sense that Paul’s favorite corporate client is Shure Microphones of Niles, Illinois. He has been photographing their endorsers for almost 30 years, with the photos being used for their website, publicity, and advertising.

Lately, Paul has put his touring experience to good use by acting as the road manager for Brian Wilson, Alice Peacock and the Dittybops. He has also done a lot of work with charities dealing with social issues, such as Farm Aid, Rock for Reading and the Chicago Music Commission.

Paul’s photographs will be on exhibit through August, 2015, at the Ed Paschke Art Center, (5415 W. Higgins Ave., Chicago IL). There will be over twenty of Paul’s most iconic images on display. All of the portraits and explosive, on-stage performances illustrate Paul’s ability to capture the excitement of live music and raw emotion his subjects trust to share with him

The Ed Paschke Art center is open every day, and admission is free.


You can see more of Paul’s work at his web site,


When Paul isn’t traveling the world, he makes his home on Chicago’s northwest side.

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