Laura Levine
news & what-not
UK freelancers under attack
posted: April 12, 2010
My music photographer and writer colleagues over in the UK in the midst of fighting a battle with Bauer Publishing, the new owners of such respected magazines as Mojo and Q (both of which I've contributed to in the past). They've been presented a "take it or leave it" contract which basically grabs their copyrights as well as indeminifying Bauer should any legal actions result from Bauer's future use of their images.

This is horrfying contract, and a slippery slope. I feel all freelance content creators - whether photographers, writers, illustrators....whether in Europe or the US - should pay close attention to this situation and do what we can to support our sisters and brothers in this fight. Here's the press release. I've highlighted some of the parts I find especially relevant.
Bauer music magazines declare war on freelances

The following statement has been agreed by representatives of 200 freelance music journalists.
Bauer music magazines Kerrang!, MOJO and Q are in a stand-off with 200 freelance writers and photographers over the company's attempt to impose a copyright-grabbing contract. This comes just eight weeks after MOJO became the UK's best-selling music magazine in ABCs which, according to Bauer UK chief executive Paul Keenan, proved that "investing in editorial content is a winning strategy".

Bauer, a German-owned publisher which bought the music magazines and other consumer titles from Emap in December 2007, is seeking to impose new, draconian contracts on all contributors to Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. These contracts remove copyright and all financial, legal and moral rights from freelance writers and photographers while simultaneously requiring that the freelances provide Bauer with an unlimited lifetime financial indemnity in the event of legal action arising from their work. Among various other restrictive impositions, the contract further grants Bauer the right to sell stories or photos to whomever they wish without reference to the writers, photographers or the subjects of the work - and it even presses freelances to acquire licenses from their subjects for the company to use their image for its own profit as and when it wishes. In a covering letter delivered with the contracts, Bauer issues an ultimatum: after April 16, if the contributors do not sign, they will no longer be commissioned.

The three music magazines, which are heavily dependent on freelance contributions, are believed to be the first former Emap titles on which Bauer seek to impose the new contract. Stuart Williams, the managing director of Bauer's music titles, has confirmed the company's intent to roll out this policy across all the magazines Bauer purchased from Emap, which include Empire, Heat, Closer, Grazia, Max Power, MCN, Match!, FHM and Zoo.

Over 200 contributors to the three music magazines have refused to sign the new contract, which has been described by contributors as "foolish", "malicious", and "an unprovoked and pointless declaration of war on freelancers". Since contributors sent an initial letter of objection to the contract in late February, Bauer have withdrawn the rights-grab from a revised version offered to a few contributors. However, the open-ended legal liabilities remain, and it is unclear whether these improvements for a few contributors will apply for long: Williams wrote to freelances that "Bauer is committed to its stated aim to seek copyright transfer."

The company has told freelances that there will be no further amendment to the contracts and that the April 16 deadline is final. Bauer now faces losing most of its best-known music writers and photographers, including Q contributing editors Billy Bragg, Miranda Sawyer and John Harris, former Kerrang! editor Paul Brannigan, former MOJO editors Mat Snow and Paul Trynka and former features editor Jim Irvin, celebrated writers including Nick Kent, Jon Savage, Sylvie Simmons, Dave Marsh and Greil Marcus, and acclaimed photographers including Jill Furmanovsky, Kevin Westenberg, Kevin Cummins and Val Wilmer.

Westenberg speaks for many when he points out: "You'll either have to sign the contract - signing copyright away; sign and be a slave - or not work for them again. I already decided not to sign a long time ago. Never give your rights away. This is your pension and legacy."

A committee of the freelances affected has been attempting to enter into dialogue with Bauer since the first draft was issued late in February, but the company has rebuffed every overture. "Their behaviour is bizarre and counter-productive," says Iggy Pop's biographer Trynka, who was previously responsible for overseeing MOJO and Q syndication and contracts. "As contributors, we share Bauer's need for their titles to remain profitable, and are offering Bauer permission to use some material on the iPad and similar digital platforms for no extra payment."

Attempted rights grabs like Bauer's are far more than an assault on a specific group of music writers and photographers - they undermine the viability of freelance journalism as a whole. Freelances bear a significant proportion of the risk in most media businesses because, behind their commission-by-commission availability, they pay for their own equipment, office space and training. Without any of the statutory sickness, holiday, maternity and paternity pay rights of staff, the only asset their work produces is their stock-in-trade: copyright ownership, as acknowledged by UK law. Will Bauer's magazines sell more copies if they push these contracts through, so losing the services of many of their most expert, reliable and popular contributors? Will musicians and other showbusiness talent stand idly by and see their quotes and photographic likenesses commoditized and put on sale by a publishing company? In business terms, it doesn't make sense.

Contacts: Phil Sutcliffe (, Paul Trynka (, Mat Snow ( and Kevin Westenberg (
Guardian Interview
posted: February 20, 2010
This weekend's Guardian (UK) newspaper interviews eight rock and roll photographers about some of their favorite shots. The photographers spill with some pretty interesting and revealing stories behind the photographs. I talk about my 1984 photo of R.E.M. at Walter's Bar-B-Que in Athens Georgia. I enjoyed being interviewed in depth about just one image.

The photographers and their subjects:
Ian Dickson: Bob Marley, 1975
Ray Stevenson: Jimi Hendrix, 1967
Gered Mankowitz: Marianne Faithfull, 1964
Jill Furmanovsky: Joy Division, 1979
Laura Levine: R.E.M., 1984
Bob Gruen: Tina Turner, 1970
Guy Webster: The Mamas & the Papas, 1966
Anton Corbijn: U2, 1986
Here's my interview, and if you click on the link you can read the others.
The band were about to release their second ­album, Reckoning, and as their record label didn't have a budget to send a photographer, I flew down to Athens, Georgia, on my own dime to shoot pictures and spend a few days with my friends. The five of us explored every nook and cranny that had photogenic possibilities – railroad tracks, abandoned factories, roadside signs, RA Miller's whirligig yard and, of course, Walter's Bar-B-Que. Truthfully, we stopped at Walter's because we were hungry. It wasn't a staged shot. While we were eating I saw a great photograph there, so I took it.

I first heard about REM from a friend who handed me their homemade cassette Radio Free Europe/Sitting Still. He thought I might like their music, and he was right. I arranged to do a photo session with them when they came up to play New York City in 1982 for the New York Rocker, where I was chief photographer and photo editor.

I photographed REM more than any other band – and probably more than any other photographer – in a four-year span. They were still coming up at the time: on a small record label, playing clubs, driving their own van and sleeping on floors. I could sense they were on their way to even greater success, and the photojournalist in me wanted to document that process. I often travelled with them, photographing them backstage, on stage, in motel rooms and at home.

Michael, Peter, Bill and Mike were some of the easiest and most agreeable guys I've ever worked with. I think the fact that we were all friends brought an extra level of fun and trust to a process that can sometimes, I realise, be a drag for the musicians.

The photograph has a special place in my heart not only because of the friendship, but because it documents a time and a place that disappeared soon after. It was a very happy time of fun, youth, experimentation and endless potential. I don't suppose any of us could have imagined how much would change in just a few years' time. It captures those last moments of ­innocence before they moved on to the wonderful successes that they did. But mostly, for me, when I look at this photograph, I see my four friends chowing down on a good meal, smiling, relaxing and being themselves.
Prints of this image are available here. Expanded interview on R.E.M.'s website here.
• All photographs appear in Who Shot Rock & Roll, by Gail Buckland.
Mystery Spot Opens for Season!
posted: June 30, 2009
Laura Cantrell kicks off "Music for Front Porches" series.

As I've mentioned, I run a side venture called Homer and Langley's Mystery Spot Antiques on weekends in the warm weather in the beautiful Catskill Mountain village of Phoenicia, NY. This is our eighth season, and an exciting one, as we've moved to Main Street, expanded, and started a free music series called "Music for Front Porches."

We're celebrating our grand re-opening this weekend with a special musical performance on the front porch by Laura Cantrell. The festivities begin on Sunday, July 5th, at 2 PM and all are welcome. Delicious home-baked refreshments will be provided by Craig Thompson of Shandaken Bake.  

Upcoming front porch performances include Life in a Blender, Steve Almaas, Ambrosia Parsley, Two Dark Birds, Gail Ann Dorsey, and many more all summer/fall!

Now located in the former Gormley Hotel on Main Street in Phoenicia, NY, we’ve expanded to seven – yes, seven! - rooms of vintage heaven. Having recently acquired a collection of over 15,000 rock, jazz and C&W records (which we’re still sorting through), we can now add vintage vinyl to our offerings of antiques, rooms of men's and women's vintage clothing, out-of-print art books, mid-century lighting, rusticalia and oddities. Heck, even when are doors aren't open, you're welcome to dig through our dollar record bins and our famous Yard Sale in a Box on the front porch, with an honor box/money drop at your service.

The Mystery Spot is at 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, NY (845) 688-7868 -

Open weekends late May – Nov, 11AM – 5PM (often later), as well as most weekdays in July/August 11AM – 2PM (open later on Fridays). It’s always a good idea to call or email first if coming from a distance.

p.s. why not join the Mystery Spot Facebook group? click here.
Beware All Who Enter Here!
A View of One of the Seven Rooms.
The Record Room.
CD cover for Alessi's Ark "Notes from the Treehouse"
posted: April 19, 2009
NOTES FROM THE TREEHOUSE is eighteen year-old Alessi Laurent-Marke's debut album on EMI/Virgin (produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes). I was commissioned to paint the artwork for the album cover as well as for the single, merchandising, etc. Working so closely with Alessi on this project has been a joy - she's very special and yes, a little magical. Her music, her writing, her artwork, her entire essence..... she has a combination of talent and spirit I've come across rarely in my almost-30 years working with performers and musicians. In a sense she reminds me of Bjork, or perhaps Victoria Williams - not so much musically but in having the same openness and purity that shined through when I worked with them as well.

Alessi and I have become great friends these past few months via overseas phone calls and late night emails and yes! even psychic brainwaves! (I kid you not) and I look forward to seeing her perform live. Meantime, you can sneak a listen to her music on her MySpace page (page pimped courtesy my artwork), or wait 'til the album is released. (Soon, I think).

The painting I did for her cover combined some of our favorite things - nature, birds and music in the intimate cozy private world of her brain. I'm not sure if I've finally worked those birds out my system yet, but it was great fun to take my bird themes to the next level and construct the birds themselves out of old trading stamps (rather than the background).
bird details
book alert: Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography
posted: February 10, 2009
Philip Townsend's photograph of Andrew Loog Oldham, 1963
For those of you who won't be traveling up to Portland, Maine anytime soon, the exhibition catalogue for the show I'm in at the Portland Museum of Art - Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography  -  is now available on Amazon (etc.).

Published by Yale University Press, the book is 128 pages and packed with music photographs by Lee Friedlander, William Claxton, Mick Rock, Kate Simon, Baron Wolman. Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Daniel Kramer,  Barry Feinstein, Art Kane, Alfred Wertheimer, Gerard Malanga, and myself, among others.

I contributed one of the original essays for the book (about my early days as a photographer and my experiences shooting bands in NYC in the 1980s) along with  Glenn O'Brien, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Anne Wilkes Tucker,  Kate Simon and Greil Marcus.

You can find the book here. The link to the museum show is here.
Part 2 of interview up and running
posted: January 22, 2009
Cast photo of my film "Just Like a Movie", Athens, GA, 1983 - sitting, left to right: Cyndy Stipe, Lynda Stipe, Laura Levine, Michael Stipe standing, left to right: Matthew Sweet, Linda Hopper, Bill Berry, Chris Slay
The second installment of my interview is posted.
new interview up at
posted: January 21, 2009
One of my covers for the NY Rocker, designed by Elizabeth Van Itallie. is running a 3-part in-depth interview with me which starts today. It focuses mainly on my early days as a music photographer and has lots of visuals. Enjoy!    
Songbirds of the Catskills in THE BELIEVER
posted: September 5, 2008
Songbirds of the Catskills, 36" x 36" (acrylic and vintage trading stamps on birch panel)
McSweeney's publishes a terrific magazine called The Believer. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Culture. Art. Film. Books. Music. Science. Power tools. Really smart and one of the few publications I happily read from cover to cover.

They contacted me a while back and we've got all sorts of projects in the works. First off is the inside front cover of this month's issue, my painting Songbirds of the Catskills.

As I mentioned previously, Songbirds of the Catskills is also available as a signed limited edition archival print on Illogator. A percentage of print sales will be donated to the Catskills wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization Ravensbeard.
Scarlet Tanager print and interview
posted: February 6, 2008
I'm making a small print run of one of my personal favorites from the Tweet Suite series -- Scarlet Tanager -- as a gift for friends, family and selected collectors, and there are a few remaining, which can be found at Illogator.

Also, a very nice man named Dale Conour interviewed me for his blog, Emerson, which you can read here.

That's all the news for now.