His camera rocks

Danny Clinch’s sizable exhibit at Les Yeux du Monde would make a terrific primer for the mid-’90s rock/pop scene. In fact, practically every revered rock figure makes at least an appearance or two, including big dogs like Bono of U2, re-emergent elders like Willie Nelson, and briefly famous figures such as Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.
But don’t go looking for new wrinkles in the lives and personalities of Clinch’s subjects. Clinch is not a documentary photographer, and he doesn’t run around surprising mega-stars in unguarded moments. Rather, Clinch proves particularly adept at tapping and amplifying these musicians’ already established public personae, and demonstrates not only a strong sense of composition and lighting, but also an understanding of what visuals reinforce an artist’s image.
That’s probably why many of Clinch’s photos turn up on magazine covers and in album art. It’s most definitely why Clinch gets so close to modern musicians who guard their images so vociferously.
So there are the Beastie Boys, goofing around at the edges of the frame, and the Foo Fighters goofing around at the center of the frame and hugging. There’s Eddie Vedder, looking happy because he’s alone, and Tony Bennett, in his own urbane way, always looking happy. Clinch locates the hallowed cool of Johnny Cash in a tilted backstage silhouette, the brainy distraction of Michael Stipe in a blurry headshot, and the earnest romance of Sting by placing his head between an eerily lit curved ceiling and an upturned collar.
In one of the best shots in the exhibit, regional presence Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse (also a recent Hook cover story subject) sits just beneath a thick column of light. The shot, taken during an appearance at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, places the light in the center of the frame, leaving Linkous pinned between the light and the edge of the frame with a look of supreme calm on his face. Anyone familiar with Linkous’ music would find this image resonant and wholly apt.
Even Clinch’s concert shots, which appear spontaneous, fit into Clinch’s carefully crafted style. Shots of the Dave Mathews Band (and there are more than a few here) emphasize the collective element of the band and their music, with group shots and plenty of arms on adjacent shoulders. Neil Young, however, is a ragged blur in a tightly framed shot. The photographer had ridiculous access to the musicians during the Concerts for Tibet, and there are some particularly fun performance shots here. He even provides a venue-copy of his book of photos from that event. 
Rock and pop fans— especially fans of this particular vintage— are going to want to check out the exhibit. But Clinch’s professional, expertly lit, and stylish shots have an appeal well beyond their star’s wattage.

Danny Clinch’s photographs hang through April 10 at Les Yeux du Monde, 705 W. Main St.  973-5566

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