(1 of 6 covers of Lid Magazine, Issue #17: Keith Richards by Michael Cooper)
Michael Cooper: Keith Richards at Joshua Tree
Michael Cooper was a photographer who demonstrated great spontaneity in his work. He had a knack for capturing his subjects au natural, even when posed. A composer behind the camera, it seemed appropriate to have an orchestral personality like Keith Richards in the viewfinder. In 1969, Michael and Keith, along with their posse of fellow musicians, artists and assorted eccentrics, retreated to a most secluded, peaceful area of California, The Joshua Tree National Monument. This extraordinary desert is where Michael captured some of his most enchanted images.
The Joshua Tree National Monument was, and still remains today, a true place of mystery. It gained a mystical reputation after the reporting of numerous sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects, prompting the likes of Keith and Michael to go on an expedition in search of these alleged extra terrestrial beings - stargazing on LSD and mescaline. They took to the seclusion of the area, seeing it as a place where they could hang out in peace and not be bothered by anybody.
Michael was a stealth photographer who caught his subjects when they were in this state of personal introspection. It’s this gift that gave his portraiture a greater sense of intimacy, particularly when “tripping” and wandering around the California desert. Michael just clicked away, letting this performance art unfold before his lens.
Along for the “trip” was Keith’s girlfriend, Italian-born fashionista, Anita Pallenberg, and country and alt-rock musician Gram Parsons who, like Keith, held Joshua Tree and all of its otherworldliness in great awe. Gram, in particular, visited on a regular basis for several years until his passing in 1973. His ashes were spread along this beloved mystical hideaway.
Michael Cooper’s portfolio of Keith Richards at Joshua Tree takes you on a majestic trip through the lens of one of the most up-close and personal photographers of the Classic Rock & Roll era. Michael captured that youthful exuberance Keith so enthusiastically embodied over 45 years ago, while simultaneously exhibiting the beauty that was Joshua Tree. You can feel the heat of the sun reflecting off the rocks that the shirtless Keith stands upon, purposefully looking off into the distance in his self-induced serenity. No one knew for sure what Keith was thinking, but Michael certainly helped fill in the blanks.