It’s a Road to Ride


Danny Clinch is one of the most well known photographers in the music industry. Famed for his unobtrusive, natural style of photography, he has deservedly earned himself a reputation as one of the best. He has shot countless promotional pictures and album covers for the legendary likes of Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and the Foo Fighters, amongst others. Born in Tom’s River, New Jersey, Clinch attended The New England School of Photography for two years in Boston. Following his graduation in 1985, he cut his teeth as an intern for acclaimed photographer Annie Liebowitz, working his way up to her assistant. He also worked alongside other photographers such as Steven Meisel and Timothy White, but his first real break came from shooting up-and-coming hip hop stars who later went on to become huge artists, such as Public Enemy and LL Cool J.

His first book, titled “Discovery Inn” was released in 1998 and featured around a hundred of his best black and white portraitures of indie artists who were relatively unknown at that time, namely Smashing Pumpkins and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, as well as the late Layne Staley and Tupac Shakur. This was followed by the publication of his second book two years later. “When The Iron Bird Flies” is a collection of photographs taken over the course of four annual Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Both black and white and colour images feature in the collection, interspersed with quotations from former political prisoners, artists and speakers, alongside facts about Tibet. Performance photographs and backstage shots of artists are juxtaposed next to portraits of the likes of Beastie Boys, Bjork and Radiohead. Both books stand as clear evidence of Clinch’s undisputed passion for music and photography.

Clinch has recently branched out from photography to explore new media, namely film. His debut effort “Pleasure and Pain” documented the movements of blues artist Ben Harper on-and-off tour over an 18 month period. His New York based film company Three On The Tree was founded in 2003, and Clinch has had considerable involvement in DVD production. He is credited as director for Pearl Jam’s 2006 Italian concert DVD “Immagine in Cornice” and also Bruce Springsteen’s “Devils and Dust” DVD set. Clinch seemingly has his finger in all the pies, and it’s clear he has no intention of stopping anytime soon.



FAULT: How would you describe your work?

Danny: For the most part, a loose and relaxed captured moment.

FAULT: What/Who inspires you?

Danny: People who work and make art on their own terms.

FAULT: Who do you love working with?

Danny: Well I love spontaneity and I have to say Tom Waits is a great subject in this regard. One time we just decided to go to the county fair, and another time he showed up with a truckload of old analogue tape players, reel to reels, speakers, bull horns, you name it, if it made a noise and had a speaker,  then he brought it. That and his dog. We spent the morning building a speaker cabinet contraption from these spare parts, and then we hooked his guitar up to it. Man it made the strangest sounds.

FAULT: You’re a big music fan, who is your favourite artist?

Danny: Little Walter, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Wilco and tons more, that’s a tough question, depends on my mood.

FAULT: What are you working on that the moment?

Danny: The new Lucinda Williams CD, new David Byrne and Brian Eno CD, next seasons John Varvatos clothing campaign which is based on  musicians (last season was Perry Farrell) and a gallery show in NYC.

FAULT: What has been proudest moment?

Danny: Well I am fortunate to have many moments where I’m pinching myself. I’ll give ya two. I got hired (for the first of what is now several shoots) to shoot Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen on the same day in 1999. It was March 16th. Then strangely enough I had my photographs come out on the cover of a Willie Nelson (Milk Cow Blues) and Johnny Cash (Solitary Man) CD. On the same day.

FAULT: Who would like to photograph both past and present?

Danny: Elvis, Bob Marley, Muddy and Prince.

FAULT: What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you on a shoot?

Danny: Well, once I was shooting a Metallica concert and I was given permission by the band to go wherever I wanted, Kirk said “just be careful that I don’t swing around and clock you in the head with  my guitar”. So half way through the show after a blistering jam, the band and everyone else leaves the stage but me. As I crouch of stage left the pyrotechnics start to explode around me. The loudest explosions I have ever heard….scared the crap out of me. After I ran for my life I started thinking that I’d rather be hit in the head with kirks guitar.

FAULT: How did Three on the Tree come about?

Danny: It was very organic, I was always thinking about moving images and a lot of the photographers I admired like Robert Frank and Danny Lyon made films. So one day I met the musician Ben Harper, and I thought, this guy is going to be around making music for a long time. Wouldn’t it be great to document him at this early stage of his career? He agreed and we made a doc called Pleasure and Pain. And I really enjoyed the process. Soon I developed this circle of like minded people and we started making films and videos. Unlike photography, the film making takes a big support group.

FAULT: Do you have a favourite photograph?

Danny: No, I have a lot of favourites.

FAULT: Do you have any Heroes?

Danny: People rich or poor who find a way to give back to their communities with whatever means they have.

FAULT: What is your FAULT?

Danny: I want to be everywhere, at everything, all the time.