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How To Become The Rolling Stones Official Photographer

Navy Pier was home to Chicago Blues Festival’s predecessor, Chicago Fest. The nearly three-quarter mile concrete peninsula seems an appropriate summer home for The Rolling Stones’ road show.  

Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones showcases an impressive number of items you’d expect to see at a gallery – instruments (guitars, bass guitars, harmonicas, and a Ludwig drum kit likely manufactured at the iconic drum company’s then-factory on Damen Avenue), wardrobes, stage designs and models, and pictures. Lots of pictures. The pictures are familiar, you’ve seen some of them before, I’m sure of it. These pictures, which have appeared on magazine covers and in liner notes and as visuals in documentaries and interview segments, have familiar caption –  “Photographer: Paul Natkin”

Picture-takers are a dime a dozen. Our photography skills are limited to our cellphone’s camera and whatever filter compensates for a lack of skill. We post our snaps to social media, count the likes and faves and retweets, and call it a day. (My handle on Insta, Twitter, and Facebook is RyanArnoldRocks, btw).

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(Photo Marty Rosenbaum)

Good photographers are fewer in number. They know there’s a difference between “pictures” and “pieces of art.” They probably took a photography class in college, dropped a few hundred bucks on a DSLR camera and a second lens, and take create pieces you wouldn’t mind hanging in a nice frame on your wall.

img 20170607 175616 How To Become The Rolling Stones Official Photographer

XRT Webmaster Marty Rosenbaum & I choosing out which outfits to try on

Great photographers are in leagues of their own. They immortalize a moment in time on single frame of film. This is Paul Natkin’s league. Paul Natkin is a member of the generation of photographers who defined music photography and rock art.

Before you climb the stairs to enter Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones, you pass a wall of Stones pictures – press and promo photos, candids, in studio, on stage – all captured by Paul Natkin. We sat in front of those pictures and talked about how he first came to photograph The Rolling Stones and how he became the photographer Mick, Keef, and Rolling Stones management would ask for when they needed a photographer who is just a cut above the rest. And, yes, they ask for him by name. Here are a few vids from our talk and a some pics from Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones.

For more information and pick up tickets before Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones leaves town on July 30th,  To learn more about Paul Natkin, visit

Your pal,
-Ryan A.

More from Ryan Arnold

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