By Walter Carter
After a tough day with rock stars and guitars, photographer Halfin often comes home to an evening of, well, rock stars and guitars. His collection of Gibsons includes a red Firebird, a Pete Townshend signature SG, the three-pickup Les Paul Black Beauty that Jimmy Page used on Halfin’s cover photo for the April 2004 issue of Guitar World, and a Joe Perry “Boneyard” model (#50 in the Custom Shop limited run).
Halfin actually doesn’t play guitar all that well. “I mess around on them,” he says, but he admits, “I was originally a drummer… It’s more that my friends come around and play them.”
His friends do play well. He counts Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck and Tony Iommi among his best friends.
Jimmy Page and Halfin
Halfin is one of the world’s top rock photographers – the Gallery section on his website includes almost 100 acts, ranging from AC/DC to ZZ Top, from Nora Jones to Ozzy Osbourne. He’s an expert on photographing the guitars of rock and roll as well. “I’m not much of a Fender man,” he said. “I don’t think it looks good. The best guitar to pose with is a Les Paul. I just think it has something, the natural attitude for rock stars. I always think a Firebird looked good because of Johnny Winter. The only person who looked good with an SG is Pete Townshend.”
Lately, however, Halfin has gained as much notoriety for his website as for his photography. The attention-grabber on the site is his diary, which includes plenty of his personal opinion.
“You look at people’s websites, they’re really one-dimensional,” he explained. “I think you should get people interested in what you do. I try to be honest.”
He gave as an example a photo shoot for a guitar publication where one of the guitarists was “so out of it,” he reported that in his diary. The editor of the magazine asked him to take it down.
Here’s the way it’s reported in his diary: “Slash, Munky, Daron Malakian, Dean DeLeo, John Frusciante, Tom Morello all turn up at 6 pm to do my idea (well, Brad Tolinski's as well) of the ultimate guitarists. Just as we get everyone lined up with Jimmy and Joe, I hear a motorbike revving up outside... Zakk Wylde has arrived! He wants to ride his bike into the studio... Wilf Wright manages to persuade him not to ... Zakk walks in, and is... how can I put it?... is Zakk…..
“The shoot goes really well. As Jimmy Page puts it to me rather succinctly, I have behaved rather worse than Zakk ever has.”
In our interview, he defended his candid website comments, saying, “I just think that if you’re going to put something up on a website it should be more human. I like to make my website more human than an egotistical rant. Truthfully what goes on (at a shoot) is far worse than I put on the website. I think my website is quite sedate, really.”
As if to illustrate how real life can be more lively than his website, he offered this comment: “You can print this. You gotta remember, at the end of the day the only things a musician cares about are two things – themselves or money. And they’re not interested in anything else, and that’s a fact, in the big picture. It’s very rare that you get a genuine friend. Jimmy Page is one of them. Joe Perry is one.”
One would think he’s had his fill of photographing musicians, and when asked what keeps him interested, he answered, “Nothing. I’d rather shoot travel.” But then he added, “I just went to Japan and shot The Who. I just shot the Ozzfest. When you sort of stop to enjoy it, it makes you enjoy it. Shooting live – not many people do it. It’s pretty exciting when you’ve got somebody you like. Slash is always good to shoot.
You’d have to check his website diary for verification, but it sounds like Ross Halfin really is still having a good time shooting rock stars. “I had to shoot the Clash today – what’s left of them anyway,” he said. “I expected them to be a nightmare, the two of them, and they were fantastic.”