Some of the most iconic images in rock, pop, and hip-hop from the last couple of decades have one thing in common: the name Danny Clinch in the photo credit. Name a superstar of the ‘90s or ‘00s – odds are the New Jersey-born shutterbug has shot them. Over the years everyone from Björk to Bruce Springsteen has been in Clinch’s sights, but he got his start interning for a previous generation’s reigning rock & roll photographer, Annie Leibovitz. “When I was working with her, so many of her images were burned into my brain as complete magic,” Clinch recalls. “It was eye-opening to be in the same room with her while she was working … and just make the realization that it isn’t magic, it’s a human being taking these pictures, with decisions to be made. And she was making the right decisions.”
In 1998, the photo book Discovery Inn documented Clinch’s own photographic decisions, capturing some of his most memorable images of artists like Green Day, Pearl Jam, and Tupac Shakur. “I try for a moment,” Clinch explains. “I’m trying to catch someone with their guard down. I was always more about trying to let people fall into their own natural comfort zone, instead of being heavy-handed about directing.” It’s that approach that has landed Clinch’s images on magazine and album covers, as well as burning them into the mind’s eyes of music fans around the globe. And now, Clinch is updating Discovery Inn for the age of the iPad.
“The original book has a slightly legendary, underground status,” Clinch says. “A lot of young photographers come up to me and ask me about it.” Eventually, the opportunity arose to upgrade the experience of Discovery Inn for the digital age. “I ran into Tom Hartle, who used to publish Spin Magazine and Tom said, ‘I started this company, we’re doing applications, and I feel like your Discovery Inn book would be awesome.’” Next thing you know, Bandwdth Publishing (sic) was rolling out the Discovery Inn app, replete with a bounty of enticing extras for both music fans and photography geeks.
“One of the things I’ve included in the app is a fair amount of the contact sheets that the images came from,” Clinch says. “So you can see the photo that was taken before it, and after it, and around it. I shot with a lot of different cameras, and I still do, and you can click on the camera and find out which images in the book were shot by which camera.” That’s plenty of material for young photographers learning how to pick the right images, but perhaps most enticing of all is the gallery of Clinch’s personal Polaroids. “Early in my career, after every shoot I would take a Polaroid of that shoot and I would glue them into this book, and I’d ask the artist to sign it,” Clinch remembers. “In that era I had signatures from pretty much everybody. I had photographed Tony Bennett and I asked him to sign my book. He took the pen out of my pocket and he told me to sit down. He sketched out a drawing of me that looked just like me. I couldn’t believe it — he did it in about eight minutes! Some of the others are Thom Yorke drawing some characters in the book, and Tupac Shakur writing, ‘If a photograph is worth a thousand words, photographers are worth a million.’”
Behind the camera: The inside scoop on some of Discovery Inn’s most arresting images.
“I was at Lollapalooza, and I had just done the other photo, the [seated] portrait of Ed. I met him — he was such a quiet, unassuming guy. I hadn’t ever really seen Pearl Jam before. The show went on, and I went out into the crowd to shoot some pictures. I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow! Is this the same guy?’ He was out there just turning it up to 11, and he was climbing up the rafters, and my motor drive crapped out on me. I was all ready to fire off 10 or 20 shots of him diving off the railing. I said, ‘Okay, I get one shot when he jumps off of here,’ and that’s what I got, that was the moment. When I saw that image I thought, ‘Thank God I got it.’”
“I did a lot of hip-hop photography back in the day. When I did photograph hip-hop artists, they’d come with an entourage of at least a half-dozen to a dozen people. Tupac showed up with one other guy, ready to work and excited about being in Rolling Stone magazine. He was super-cool and really chill. I recall we did a couple of portraits, and I said ‘Can we change into a different shirt?’ He took his shirt off and I saw that he had all these interesting tattoos, and I said, ‘Oh wow, can we get one with just the tattoos?’ That became the shot. And then when he died they used the color version of that on the cover of Rolling Stone. That’s my only Rolling Stone cover, and when they show Rolling Stone covers anywhere, that one’s usually in the mix, so that makes me proud.”
“I was shooting Tony Bennett for Entertainment Weekly magazine. I was doing these portraits of him on a backdrop … they were all a little bit stiff, and I was trying to get to a point where I captured a moment. He had an ascot, and I was like, ‘Well, let’s put on the ascot.’ As he was throwing on the ascot, I started photographing. He was enjoying himself and having a good laugh, and in the end when I got the shoot back, that ended up being my favorite moment. In the book, that photograph is paired with the Ol’ Dirty Bastard photograph, which I thought was great – two guys living large. Ol’ Dirty Bastard in some apartment in Red Hook with some 64 oz malt liquor and a blunt, and Tony Bennett fixing his ascot!”
Download the Discovery Inn iPad app here.