The Name-Drop Diaries #02

In December 1990, The List magazine called me and asked me to go to The City Arts Centre in Edinburgh to photograph the launch of a new exhibition, Diary of a Decade, by Joni Mitchell. ‘Get a decent shot of Ms Mitchell that we can use for the article’ they said.

This 23 year old photographer set off with his Wonderstuff hair tied back, his camel jeans and black denim jacket to attend the opening and hopefully get a shot of Joni Mitchell that was good enough for publication. Back then I shot on a crappy Pentax 35mm with a single kit lens… not quite the professional I needed to be in later years!
(In fact, this is the camera kit that survived around 100 gigs in the pit at Glasgow Barrowlands shooting live music for The List.)

Having attended Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, a military boarding school, from the age of 10, it was drummed into me to be early to guarantee being on time… ALWAYS!

I turned up 30 mins early to the gallery and the security guard waved me in as I had my press pass on me. The place was empty, I walked around and viewed her paintings which were stunning… until I hear the lift door ‘ping’.

I glimpsed over and out she walked. No make-up on and a massive smile on her face as she walked straight towards me.

Now, I must explain something. At the age of 23, I knew very little of Joni Mitchell, her fame, stature, genius and renown. I now reflect on this and wish I was able to spend a little more time with her that evening.

Alas, I only got 20 mins… BUT… 20 minutes alone… with Joni… Mitchell!

As the lift doors closed, she walked towards me with that huge smile on her face. I can only presume that she could see the nervous young photographer trying to look cool and keep his composure.

She asked me to sit with her on the steps by the front door as she pulled out her makeup bag and little purse mirror.

She then spent the next wee while asking all about my life, my aspirations and who I worked with. I’m pretty sure I managed to get a plug in for my band Tonight at Noon at the time too.

When the press and guests started to show up at the door, I asked her if I could grab a quick shot and she agreed. She grabbed her compact camera and proceeded to photograph me in return! We had a giggle until I eventually exclaimed that I think I have something. (I would have finished my 36 shots on that roll of film no doubt) See the shots featured…
I need to find a decent neg scanner as these are from the contact sheet!

I am grateful for that wee moment I got to spend with her.

In the following years I grew to learn so much more about her and the impact she has had on so many people.

If she actually had a film in that compact camera, there will be a shot of me on there laughing at her while trying to get ‘the shot’ as she toyed with me that evening.

It’s lovely to think that I may exist, in a tiny wee way, in her photographic archives in Bel-Air, L.A.


Joni Mitchell at City Arts Centre, Edinburgh 1990
Contact sheet scan, better scans of session coming soon…

That’s me in the 90s…