photographer (Paul McCartney on tour)
Paul McCartney’s personal photographer for 15 years. The former Beatle wasn’t only shot on, off or backstage, but went to his studio as well - like Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), Richard Branson (Virgin Group founder) or Philip Glass did. Besides celebrities the American documented the expressive hedonism in the disco scene of The Big Apple in the late 1970s – especially at world’s famous night club ‚Studio 54’ - as well as the homeless of a New York mission nowadays. For internationally celebrated award winning portrait and documentary photographer Bill Bernstein „photography is anthropology“.
photographer (Paul McCartney on tour)
„A reputation somewhere between Sodom and Gomorrah.“ That was all that Bill Bernstein (* 1950) had heard about ‚Studio 54‘ when New York‘s weekly newspaper ‚The Village Voice‘ assigned him to document an award ceremony in December 1977. “Over the next five or six hours my world underwent a metamorphosis”, he told London‘s free daily newspaper ‚Evening Standard‘. “Throughout the club I saw imagery that reminded me of Brassai's 1930s photographs of nightlife in Pigalle or Diana Arbus on the Streets of New York. I got very drawn into what I saw there, primarily the inclusiveness of different subcultures and cultures all meeting up in one place.“ Frequent visitor Andy Warhol, the influential Pop art artist, shares that describition of the club’s visitors and vibe on store.studio54official.com: “Studio 54 was a dictatorship at the door, and a democracy on the dance floor. The crowd was a beautiful, harmonious mix of straight, LGBTQ, African-American, Latino, young and old, rich and struggling, as well as a few celebrities thrown into the mix. I give much credit to co-owner, Steve Rubell, for creating and casting” the perfect party night after night.“ In spite of all of the freedom of expression and open sexuality and drugs, I see a bit of innocence“, Bill Bernstein said to documentjournal.com. „I mean, people were really just living their lives. Nobody was getting hurt. There was no hatred, there was no anger.“ The man’s fascination resulted in becoming passionate about representing contemporary cultures and subcultures through the medium of photography. From the vibrant and expressive hedonism and inclusion of New York City’s disco era to 15 years touring at Paul McCartney’s side as his personal photographer, he‘s captured the previously unseen dynamics and subtleties of individual lives.
„You had to be there! But if you weren’t, my photographs can take you there“, he writes on his homepage. „Many of my images are time capsules of unique periods in recent American history which saw the ferment of post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS culture and the expression of sexual liberation, Women’s Liberation, and Civil Rights.“
Bill Bernstein‘s style in catching a piece of history is „unflinching and open—like the photographers who have long influenced me: Richard Avedon, William Klein, Diane Arbus and Irving Penn. Classic and timeless. Whether I’m shooting rockstars like U2, business titans like Richard Branson, or the homeless of the Bowery Mission, every photograph cuts through public persona to offer real faces and glimpses of the unguarded. It’s all about the immediacy of the moment.“
Bernstein services an international advertising and editorial and corporate clientele including ‚National Geographic TV‘, ‚Merck, TIME Magazine‘, LIFE Magazine ‚New York Philharmonic‘. His works are featured in numerous museums and galleries. He is the author of four coffee table books: „Night Dancin’“ (1980), „Each One Believing: Paul McCartney On Stage, Off Stage, and Backstage“ (2004), „DISCO: The Bill Bernstein Photographs“ (2015) and „Last Dance“ (2021).
Bill Bernstein lives and works in New York City, his hometown.