I’ve Spent Years Tracking Down Historical Music Photography Locations, Here Are 30 Of The Best Pics (30 Pics)
I have been recreating music history by photographing the original images of musicians and bands in the exact location where they were photographed many years or even decades before. The project started in 2010 with old family photos, and since then, I've transitioned over to music photography having covered over 500 music locations mainly sharing my work on Instagram.
I compose each shot to include the original image in my hand, lined up (as best as I can) with the background as it appears today. I've enjoyed walking in the footsteps of some of my favorite musicians all while learning more about music history along the way. I like to challenge myself to find every location, so I scour through interviews, research the photographers, and investigate the timeline of the musicians during specific periods. I also comb through Google Maps, sometimes going street-by-street, exploring locations, and trying to match them to the original images.
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I grew up in Pennsylvania about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia and moved to NYC when I was 18 for college. I stayed there after graduation and began my career as a freelance documentary filmmaker and commercial and music video director. I’m also a photographer. I currently co-own the production company Nom De Plume.
Nirvana, August 17th 1991 At Gmt Studios On A Break From Filming Their Music Video For Smells Like Teen Spirit. Photo By Kevin Estrada
I was inspired by a 2010 Daily Mail article on then and now war photography where the photographer blended original war images to the location as it looked today in Photoshop. It was extremely effective, but because I wasn’t too savvy in Photoshop at the time, I began using physical pictures from my personal family album that I could hold in my hand and recreated them in the location where they were shot decades ago. Over time, I continued doing this but would also visit the location of some of my favorite movie or TV locations as well as music photography when traveling for business.
Prince For The Cover Of His Album Purple Rain, 1984. Original Photo By Rob Slenzak
LED Zeppelin's Cover For Their 1975 Album Physical Graffiti. Cover Art Designed By Peter Corriston. Original Photo By Elliot Erwitt
I had a private Instagram account for years and would only share the images I captured with close family and friends, but after a recommendation from a good buddy of mine, I opened the account up to the public to share the work with other people I didn’t know. It soon garnered some attention but I later came upon an account doing something similar with strictly movie locations. I didn’t want to step on her toes, so I transitioned to music photography as I wasn’t seeing anyone else doing it.
Though I work in film, music and music photography have always been influential in my career, having started early on directing music videos and having a passion for music photography as a hobby since I was young. It only made sense that I transitioned to music. I’m glad I did as I’ve been able to connect with some of my favorite musicians and photographers through the years as well as learn more about each individual artist I post about along the way.
John Lennon And Yoko Ono, 1973, NYC. This Photo Is A Block From The Dakota, Where John Would Later Be Shot. Taken By Bob Gruen
Green Day In NYC, June 29th 1994. Possibly The Same Day They Played David Letterman
It has become a time-consuming project, one that also involves putting my own resources into it, but it’s fun. I like the hunt. I see it as a challenge and a constant game of Where’s Waldo? People have really come to enjoy it and I’ve been moved by some of the personal messages I’ve gotten through the years and the effect it’s had on people. As long as people find interest in it and it gives them some joy from endless hours of scrolling through the day, then I think it’s worth it. There’s no shortage of music photography and I hope to expand outside just New York City and LA where I’m mainly located.
This Is One Of My Favorite Images Of Bob Dylan Taken On February 10th, 1965 In NYC By Richard Avedon
Debbie Harry Standing On The F/M Platform At 14th Street, NYC. Taken By Chris Stein
Originally, when I was in New York City, I would focus on one location/picture at a time and set out to capture it early in the morning or at the end of the day when I was finally free from work. Since the pandemic, I’ve moved outside of NYC and I’m not there as much. When I have some consecutive free days, I’ll now go in and take a few days to hunt down multiple pictures over a certain period of days, traveling all around the 5 boroughs and beyond.
I’ll locate the pictures ahead of time, pin them on a Google map, print out the images and scout out routes to travel so I’m organized and save time when I head out to capture them. It’s good to plan out the route ahead of time as you don’t want to realize later after you’ve left a spot that there’s another picture you could have gotten that’s just a block away. Sundays in NYC prove to be the best as I can easily drive from location to location without the hassle of fighting for parking spots or having to pay at a meter (free parking on Sundays). New Yorkers and the drivers tend to leave for the weekend which allows for less traffic and open parking spots.
Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Album Cover. Taken By Aubrey "Po" Powell
Kurt Cobain And Courtney Love With Frances Bean In 1992 At Their Hollywood Heights Home. Taken By Stephen Sweet
I’ve recently also been capturing an additional photograph of the location without me holding the original pictures in a frame, just showing off the environment and what it looks like today. It’s a nice comparison to see who and what once stood in that location to how it looks today without those musicians standing there. It gives a whole new look to what would seemingly look like an ordinary street on any given day. It can become quite eerie at times to imagine the person who once stood there, especially if they’re no longer with us. It reminds us of the amount of history we’re surrounded by but often don’t realize it or reflect upon it.
There’s nothing more to it than me holding the pictures in the original locations and trying the best I can to line them up to the environment as it’s seen today. It’s best if there’s something familiar to the location, whether that be a street sign, building, tree, etc., as it was years prior.
Guns N' Roses Shot In West Hollywood For Rolling Stone Magazine, 1988. Taken By Timothy White
Nirvana At The East River Park Amphitheater 1989. Taken By Steve Double
My iPhone has proved to be the easiest to operate with this method, but I’m unhappy with the lack of quality the iPhone offers. Perhaps If I have future plans for a book or large-scale printouts, I’ll revisit some of these spots and properly capture them with the right equipment for the best quality results that can give me the flexibility to print images at a large scale. Since it’s only for Instagram and similar platforms, the iPhone currently does its trick.
The Beatles Visiting Washington, D.c. For Their First American Concert In February, 1964 Right After Playing The Ed Sullivan Show
Beastie Boys, 1991, Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica Ca. Taken By Glen E. Friedman
Regarding The Band Was Here, I have a few things in the works that I hope I can share more about soon. I have gotten a lot of questions/interest in a book, which is something I would like to put out. I’d also like to explore a gallery show at some point. I think seeing the images printed out at a large scale could have a different effect on the viewer than what they currently encounter on Instagram.