The first time Mikael Jansson photographed Iggy Pop was in September 1977, at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
Mikael Jansson was 19 years old, and he was using the trick he always used in those days: he hung a couple of extra cameras around his neck and pretended to be a press photographer. He edged his way forward through the crowd, getting as close to the stage as he possibly could. The camera was a Nikon 35 mm, loaded with reversal film.
In 1977, Iggy Pop released two albums that have since gone on to become classics: The Idiot and Lust for Life, both of which were recorded in collaboration with David Bowie. The songs from those albums dominated the set list, but Iggy also performed the song that so succinctly summed up everything Mikael found so attractive about Iggy’s music: “Raw Power”.
Mikael Jansson wasn’t yet a professional photographer, but viewing his concert photos from 1977 makes it very plain that he already had a great sensitivity for, and ability to capture, the human being who is Iggy Pop. When I wrote a feature on Mikael Jansson for DI Weekend, the legendary art director Fabien Baron had this to say: “Mikael loves and understands people on a deep, emotional level. That’s probably why his pictures are so much more sensitive and narrative than fashion photography tends to be in general.”
Mikael Jansson, who was born in July 1958, grew up in the southern outskirts of Stockholm. His father was a butcher, who worked in the Stockholm meatpacking district, and his mother had an office job in business administration.
He developed an obsession with music, particularly David Bowie, in his teens, and soon began spending all his money on bootlegs and concert tickets. The first time David Bowie visited Sweden, when he performed at the Royal Tennis Hall, Mikael spent three days queuing up outside Svala & Söderlund, a music store at Hötorget that sold concert tickets. During those days in the line, he made friends with a model who was working as an assistant for photographer Carl-Johan Rönn. This was when it first dawned on him that photography could actually be a job.
Mikael Jansson went on to learn his craft working under Carl-Johan Rönn for five years, and then assisting Richard Avedon in New York for two years. When he eventually began to work for himself, he soon achieved great success. He has been one of the world’s leading photographers for four decades now, and it would actually be easier to list the models and actors he hasn’t photographed.
In 2010, Mikael Jansson was given an assignment by the New York Times’s T-Magazine supplement, which also represented an opportunity for him to return to his roots as a music fan. Mikael Jansson took pictures of Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Dave Gahan, Bryan Ferry, Michael Stipe, David Johansen, and many others. Most of the shoots took place in New York. However, to include Iggy Pop in his feature, he ended up having to go to Miami.
“We rented a studio there. Iggy Pop turned up in a Ferrari. Just as we were about to begin, he told his assistant, ‘Go out and fetch Raw Power, the CD is in the car.’ Next, he played Raw Power, my favourite album, at blaring volume, and went on to deliver what was practically a full concert performance to us right there in the studio.”
The night before he left for Miami, Mikael Jansson had an idea. He had been approached by Dior about participating in a project in which a variety of artists, photographers, and media personalities would be featured with a new Dior purse. Mikael Jansson didn’t know what he would like to do, but suddenly, he could just see it: Iggy Pop should be holding the purse. He knew Iggy Pop had no issue with wearing women’s clothes, and he asked his stylist to bring a selection along, just in case the opportunity would present itself.
When the planned photo shoot was done, he decided to suggest the idea. Iggy Pop examined the selection, and told the stylist, “Give me something simple”. Dressed in a black slip dress and a wielding a Dior purse, he gave another performance in the studio.
When the day’s work was done, Iggy Pop tossed the purse to one side, and exclaimed: “Touchdown Dior!”
Mikael Jansson: “To this day, I still regret that I didn’t ask him to finish it all off by pissing in the purse. His hand was in his fly for half the shoot, and I’m pretty sure he would have done it. That would have been peak punk photography!”