Photographer Shatan about Paul’s Boutique

category: > Features, > Photography

written by: Jaap Proost

I like this photo so much, as a kid I pinned it on my wall. It was used for the cover of the album Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. For years the cd case of my copy had no booklet in it. The photo shows the gritty street corners at Ludlow and Rivington Street in the Lower East Side on a crisp day. The creator of this urban panorama is photographer Jeremy Shatan. He tells BeatsNothing how he did it.

 

Shatan and Beastie Boy Mike D. know each other since they were thirteen years old. They even played in a band together, the Young Aborigines. ‘We bonded over music, mainly, and were quite obsessed.’

 

 

But Mike D.’s claim to fame is not the Young Aborigines. With the releasing of their first album Licensed to Ill he and the other Beastie Boys quickly gained the status of stars. ‘When that brouhaha died down, Mike and I got back in touch’, says Shatan. ‘I had studied photography in school and was working for a photographer. One day at lunch, Mike mentioned that they were nearing completion on their next album and had a concept for the cover but had no idea how to execute it. He described it and I told him I could make it happen. We set a date and I hired an assistant and rented the equipment.’

 

The idea was to make a 360 degrees panorama of an intersection in the Lower East Side. ‘On the day of the shoot, the assistant and I arrived early and found that the Beastie Boys had already hung the fake Paul’s Boutique sign and dressed the front of the store with all their hipster pop-culture detritus.’

 

Shatan used a mechanical panoramic camera for the shot. ‘You basically wound the camera up in one direction and, when you pressed the shutter, it rotated back the other way while the film moved past the lens.’ The camera was placed in the middle of the intersection. ‘We crouched under the tripod and called “action” and Beastie began performing for the camera. We shot a lot of film, maybe twenty rolls, before feeling secure that we had the shot. Also we used another camera to take a couple of quick Polaroid’s to make sure our exposure would be in the ballpark. Because it was a panoramic shot, we had to leave a lot of the technical aspects of the shot to chance.’

 

In style with their reputation, The Beastie Boys informed no authorities about the shoot. ‘There were other people around but we were not bothered by them. We had no problems with the police either. Good thing, as we had no permits of any kind!’

 

 

The Ludlow and Rivington Street intersection was not the only location. The Beastie Boys also wanted to do a panoramic shot on the roof of 101 Park Avenue. ‘On the way over there I heard in the car some of the music of the new album and was blown away. I had hated Licensed To Ill and was glad to hear them making music that was more to my liking.’

 

Together with his assistant he did some shots on top of the building. ‘It turned out it was not an ideal location for a panoramic shot because there was a large structure in the center of the roof. I’ve heard that one of those rooftop shots ended up in the book for The Sounds of Science.’

 

Jeremy Shatan processed the film at his lab and the Beastie Boys picked it up. ‘I didn’t see it again until they sent me the completed cover.’ On the record Nathanial Hornblower is credited as the photographer and Shatan is mentioned as assistant. Hornblower is a name made up by the Beastie Boys. Because the band came up with the concept, they also took the credit. But Shatan doesn’t mind. ‘I am very pleased with how it turned out and proud to be associated with what is now a legendary album.’

 

 

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