See Rare Intimate Photos of John Lennon, Mick Jagger & More from Photographer Who Befriended Rock Legends

Ethan Russell, ca. 2012

Photographer Ethan Russell with his photo of Keith Richards (from 1972) at US customs in Seattle, Washington. 

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Mick Jagger, 1968

“I was nervous,” says Russell of first professional photo shoot. “What the hell was I doing there? Up until then, I had taken pictures mostly of children. I just did it instinctively. I was lucky he was preoccupied being interviewed. There was a window behind me with a lace curtain and if you’re trying to diffuse lighting, nothing could be better. In a way, it was given to me.” 

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1968

“They just showed up in these black capes,” says Russell. “The capes made them appear as it they are one but they still maintain their individuality.” Lennon particularly liked the pictures he took of his wife. “When I showed up to photograph them, he took the photos right out of my hand and put them all over his wall. I think she’s quite beautiful at this age. It was truly a love story between them.”

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Brian Jones, 1968

This photo of the Rolling Stone’s original guitarist was taken at his home, which had originally belonged to A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. “He started acting out for the camera, kicking the statue of Christopher Robin,” says Russell. “He was not alive much longer after this.” (Jones drowned in his swimming pool at age 27 after years of substance abuse.)

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Mick Jagger, 1968

“This was shot to be a poster but never used,” says Russell. “I’m in front of the tiger about three feet from the tiger’s mouth. Jagger comes in tip-toeing because he was so nervous but I was the one more at risk.”

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The Beatles, 1969

“That truly is the last photo session they did together,” says Russell. “They were done but they are still The Beatles.”

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Jim Morrison, 1969

Russell took this photo in London. “It was as if he was expecting the audience to come to him, rather than him giving anything to the audience.” 

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John Lennon, 1969

“When I heard John had died, to me it was the end of all of it because no one was carrying the flame the same way,” he says of Lennon’s death on Dec. 8, 1980. “Rock and roll had been his whole life but by then spiritual humanism was his core.” 

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Mick Jagger, 1969

“That’s a picture you never know you’re going to get, an eighth of a second later it would have been totally different,” says Russell. “He moved so fast. He was going a million miles a minute. Phenomenal.”

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Carlos Santana, 1971

“Carlos hung out by himself,” he says of the legendary guitarist. “He’s looking at a picture of his guru with incense behind him. His band is downstairs trying to pick up girls. It’s what I call the sacred and the profane.”

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Linda Ronstadt, 1972

“She looked quite beautiful,” he says of the singer. “She couldn’t have been more famous but she couldn’t have been more down to earth. She’s one of the people I still listen to.”

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Keith Richards, 1972

Russell used this shot of the Rolling Stones guitarist for his book’s cover. “That really is Keith walking off the plane with his drug bag,” he notes. 

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Roger Daltrey, 1973

“He was perfect playing the part of Tommy” [the vulnerable hero of The Who’s 1969 rock opera] says Russell, “but that’s not who he was. He was a little bit of a tough guy. He would get into fights with people if he thought they weren’t toeing the line.”

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