Questa volta vi vogliamo segnalare la storia di Justine Walpole, fotografa di origini australiane che da giovane ammiratrice di Prince, si è ritrovata, un po’ per caso, ed essere la fotografa ufficiale che ha accompagnato ed immortalalo l’artista in questi ultimi anni. Justine nell’intervista al theaustralian.com.au ricorda questa fantastica esperienza vissuta a stretto contatto con Prince, durante i suoi concerti o tra le mura della Paisley Park. Fu proprio lui a chiamarla e a riceverla personalmente al suo arrivo a Minneapolis, dopo aver visto alcune fotografie scattate in occasione del “Welcome 2 Australia Tour” del 2012. Tra i due oltre ad un rapporto artistico c’è stato un legame di amicizia e reciproco rispetto. La fotografa infatti racconta Prince sotto un punto di vista personale. Allegro, divertente e mai noioso e banale. L’ultima occasione per scattargli delle foto è stata a febbraio di quest’anno, a Melbourne in una camera di un hotel. Sono le prime che trovate al termine dell’articolo.
From teen dreams to privileged post behind Prince’s purple curtain
by Trent Dalton – The Australian April 25, 2016
Sometimes she wishes she could go back and talk to her 15-year-old self, the girl lying on her belly beneath a rattly turntable singing Purple Rain in her parents’ lounge room in Victoria’s Gippsland, staring at the iconic album cover face of Prince Rogers Nelson.
“Guess what?” Justine Walpole would tell her young self. “One day you’ll be living in that man’s house. One day he’ll be the most extraordinary friend you’ll ever have.”
For the past three surreal years of her life, Victoria-raised and Gold Coast-based snapper Walpole was the late rock ’n’ roll star’s personal photographer, a job that saw her living inside Prince’s Paisley Park compound in Minnesota, a 24/7 magic factory of endless ideas, musical experimentation, impromptu late-night photo shoots and ordinary old weeknight dinners with a pop culture demigod.
“It’s such a random, totally bizarre experience to happen,” she said yesterday.
“Now that’s it over, I can’t believe it happened. I thought it would never end.”
Walpole slipped behind the purple curtain and saw a creative perfectionist with a wry sense of humour and a deep love of Aussies who weren’t afraid to say “maybe not, Mr P” when everybody else was saying “yes”.
A police investigation is under way into his death last week amid reports the 57-year-old used drugs and alternative therapies to tackle chronic pain in his joints.
Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson, a former crack cocaine addict, could inherit his $US300 million ($389m) fortune, including a rumoured vault of unreleased music at Paisley Park Studios, the $10m complex built in the suburbs of Chanhassen near Minneapolis.
Walpole’s surreal adventure began in 2012 when Prince cast his eyes over a series of photographs she had taken of his Brisbane and Melbourne concerts.
“He started jumping around over the shots, pointing at the camera screen, just overjoyed,” she said. Prince changed her life with the following words: “You should come over to Minneapolis and make some art.”
Weeks later, she landed at the front door of Paisley Park with her long-time, spade’s-a-spade, southeast Queensland businessman partner Ross Nielson.
“My idea of Paisley Park at 15 was totally different to what I actually saw,” she said. “I imagined some sort of cartoon structure with flowers and animals prancing around and rainbows. It’s very, very different. It almost looks like some sort of space-age structure. A great big, massive, austere concrete building. The colour is on the inside.”
Sweeping recording studios with purple walls, vast indoor concert spaces decorated with Prince’s iconic love symbols, dancefloors and nightclub spaces, endless corridors lined with platinum discs, random guitars everywhere belonging to one of the greatest guitarists of all time, spaces for his beloved midnight ping-pong.
“I went to the front door and I expected someone like a butler to answer the door,” she said. “And Prince opened the door. And I was so excited to see him I ran and I hugged him, kissed him on the cheek. I just forgot myself. But he was so warm and open and he just said, ‘Come on in’.”
What followed was a three-year dream from which she didn’t wake until last week, when Prince was found dead in his home.
“Prince was bemused by (her partner) Ross,” she said. “Prince and I are both really softly spoken and Ross is this blokey Aussie tidal wave. They bonded so well because Ross is a really good ping-pong player and the two of them would play for hours and hours on end.”
The tennis-loving Prince and Nielson would spend hours dissecting sports, chewing over the diehard qualities of Lleyton Hewitt between their own rapid paddle forehands and backhands.
“Prince has a lot of female energies around him and Ross is so not like that, but he would have Prince in hysterics. Prince was a very amusing guy — he could have been a stand-up comedian. Everyone that knows him knows how funny he is. Tears-rolling-down-your-face funny.”
Prince didn’t do mundane. Prince didn’t do boring.
“I remember one day he said he wanted flames coming out of one of his band member’s hands in a photo shoot. He would just say these things and then leave the room, and you’d be there going, ‘OK’.
“I’d always be like: ‘Oh, Prince, umm, about the flame — if I light fire in the studio, won’t the sprinklers go off? I don’t want to burn down Paisley Park.’
“And he’d say: ‘Go outside and light some fire.’ So I’m outside lighting fires and that’s what it’s like.
“He wanted it and you did it. That’s what I loved about him. He pushed you so hard to do things that would normally be impossible … We got the shot with the flame coming out of the hand.”
The last shoot Walpole had with Prince was in a Melbourne hotel room during his February Australian tour. The shoot gave one of her favourite Prince shots, a haunting, straight-to-camera picture capturing the musician’s epic and intense other-worldly magic.
“He had no entourage that tour,” she said. “I would turn up at the hotel room for the shoot and there was no one there to assist him through it. Minimal lighting. Just him and I, and Ross helping out. He did his own hair and make-up. He’d throw stuff together. He knew himself so, so well and he was extraordinarily beautiful to photograph.
“There is literally only two frames of that image that exist. There’s no taking hundreds of photos of him. You literally get two shots, then it’s: ‘OK, that’s done. Next.’ ”
Walpole has been running that final shoot over in her mind since Prince died.
“It was really unusual,” she said. “He wasn’t in the room for a while and then he suddenly came back in and he said the most beautiful and sincere thank-you.”
Walpole had spent three years staring into his face through a lens. She knew that face like the back of her hand and there was something across his face that night that she hadn’t seen before, something tender and vulnerable, something big and universal that crossed from mere polite gratitude into the realms of acceptance, and fate, and last chances.
“It was the way he said thanks to me that night,” she said.
“The way he looked. I felt at the time it was an unusual thing for him to do. It feels so poignant now when I look back. I don’t know, it probably sounds weird. He was so softly spoken and so quiet, the way he stood there. It was always sad leaving Prince.”
Even sadder when Prince left us.
“I remember that girl staring so intently into that Purple Rain album cover,’’ Walpole said.
“Every single day I was at Paisley Park I took myself back to that girl with that album cover and told myself to be in that moment. I tried really hard to really etch it into my memory. I just wanted to remember the spaces, like just being in a room with Prince with him sitting alone at a piano.
“He let that 15-year-old girl see little parts of his life she never would have dreamed of. That was beautiful of him.”