Heroes: Prince

Heroes: Prince

Following the tragic passing of music’s reigning prince, Inez & Vinoodh remember our fallen hero on the day of his birth with previously never-before-seen photos

Following the tragic passing of music’s reigning prince, Inez & Vinoodh remember our fallen hero on the day of his birth with previously never-before-seen photos

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Melanie Ward

Text: Joseph Akel

“In the beginning, he was a little shy,” Inez van Lamsweerde recalls of her meeting with Prince. Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin—who, together, make up the photography duo, Inez & Vinoodh—were in Las Vegas to shoot Prince for the cover of V’s 2013 Fall Preview issue, V84. With the musician in the middle of a concert series at the Hard Rock Café, the photographers were only granted a small window of time to shoot the music legend. “Basically, we set up a gray seamless in the kitchen of the green room backstage,” van Lamsweerde remembers, “which was incredibly small and with a very low ceiling.” In between sets, Prince would rush backstage to his fitting room, change his costume and hair and, before going back on stage, pose to be photographed.

The pace was frenetic and Prince was involved with every last detail of the shoot. On the first day, Inez & Vinoodh returned from a crew lunch to find that they were temporarily barred from the fitting room. “We were told by his people that he wasn’t ready for us to come in.” Curious, the photographers waited outside. “When we were finally let back in, it turned out he had gone through all the clothes and created all these outfits. He had done the styling by himself.” Just before beginning the first session, Prince stepped in front of the seamless and described the feel he wanted to go for that day. “He said, ‘You know, I’m really interested in Hendrix and all that.’”

No more than five pictures in, Prince asked the photographers if he could see what had been shot. “Normally, that’s a nerve-wracking situation for us to immediately have to share the photos with the subject,” van Lamsweerde confesses, “but I showed it to him and he looked at the back of my camera and said, ‘Delete, delete, delete. That’s the picture. Delete the rest.’ Out of the five images that I shot, he chose one from just looking at the small images on the back of the camera and that ended up being the cover for V.” (The image opposite is an outtake, released for the first time in this issue.)

As the shoot continued, Prince eventually opened up to the photography crew camped out in his green room. “He got more and more excited as the day kept going, as he saw what we were doing and liked it.” And Prince’s enthusiasm wasn’t limited to the images that the duo took of him. During the day, when Prince wasn’t performing, Inez & Vinoodh shot his all-female backup band. “He was extremely supportive of the girls in the band,” recalls van Lamsweerde. When asked what music he was listening to, “he said, ‘I don’t really listen to anyone today. I’d much rather listen to my band 3RDEYEGIRL, the girls, play their stuff. They’re so talented. That’s what’s so inspiring to me.’ You meet so many people, and some are just solely focused on their life, but some are genuinely interested in anyone around them. That was the case with Prince.”

And while the experience of being around someone whose music and style are larger than life was unforgettable, it was the very human interactions with the late musician that remain most poignant for them.

“He wore these beautiful little boots with high heels,” van Lamsweerde recalls. At one point in between shoots, Prince sat “next to me on the couch, taking the boots off to try on [another pair] that Donatella Versace had specifically made for him. I just remember looking at his satin boot just laying there on the ground thinking, Wow, I’m looking at Prince’s boot. It was so epic. He has small feet and the heel is this high ’80s heel. I was like, Look at that. There’s that boot. He’s got his thing, it’s sort of male and female erotic at the same time. Sexy. It seems so impossible that he could even pass away, let alone so young. It made me feel very, very sad but also extremely proud that we had the chance to make these iconic images of him. His whole incredible career is inspiring, in terms of fashion, in terms of image making, in terms of video making, and of course the music. But just visually, his vision was so big for everyone in my generation. It was just such a treat to have been able to record that ourselves and in our way.”

Credits:

Grooming Amber Rose  Lighting director Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson  Production Brenda Brown (The Collective Shift)  On-set production Lisa Grezo (GE Projects)  Studio producer Jeff Lepine  Studio manager Marc Kroop Retouching Stereohorse

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