For nearly a decade, Afshin Shahidi had unbridled access to one of the world’s most iconic singers. In his new book, “Prince: A Private View,” available Tuesday, the Iranian-born photographer gives a glimpse into the late singer’s life through never-before-seen photos and intimate stories.
“Initially the first set of photos were for tour books for him,” explains Shahidi, who began working for the singer in the early Nineties as a videographer. “Part of it was for his records, but part of it was because he was not letting anybody else photograph him.”
The tome, which Shahidi insists is not a “traditional coffee-table book with grand images on each page,” is filled with pictures mostly taken between 2001 and 2010 showing the musician on stage and in quiet moments at home and on the road. “What I wanted was to paint something that was intimate and hopefully [gave] a more human side of him.”
Adding to this personal narrative is the book’s foreword penned by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who first performed with the “1999” singer at the Grammy Awards in 2004. In her introductory tribute, she writes, “To describe Prince as an icon is completely expected, for it would be accurate. Truth be told, the word ‘icon’ only scratches the surface of what Prince was and what he remains to me.”
For Shahidi, it was Knowles-Carter’s comparable status in the music industry that encouraged him to reach out for comment in hopes of “[igniting] a passion for Prince among a younger generation that may not know his music as much.”
“The one thing he taught me was to look at opportunities and not obstacles,” he adds. “Impossible and can’t were not part of his vocabulary.…[A forward by Beyoncé] seemed like the impossible dream, but I said if Prince were alive and I brought her up, he would make the call [to her].”
It’s these lessons from the singer, who died last year at age 57, that continue to resonate with Shahidi and fill the book’s text, which reads like journal entries alongside many photos showing a revealingly human side to the diminutive performer.
“He would push me and challenge me and I would figure out a way to do it,” says Shahidi. “He was [naturally] shy so unless you got to know him and broke that outer shell he may have come off as aloof, but once you were in there, he was very open.”
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