“In 1978 I got a call to shoot the Blues Brothers. They were new on the scene for me and I wasn’t yet familiar with their work. But the guys in my crew were completely thrilled with the idea of filming this duo and convinced me that we should definitely film the session.
“Dan [Aykroyd] and John arrived in full Blues Brothers outfits – it was actually pretty strange to have people in the studio dressed in suits. When they arrived they were less than communicative or pleasant- not exactly excited for another photo shoot. My usual approach to filming a session, if I didn’t mention it up front to the subject, was to begin shooting stills and once we were having fun, the energy was flowing, and we’d developed a little trust, I would ask the artists if it was ok if I brought my film crew in.
“My cameraman, John Sharaf, was in the front room of the studio with the rest of the crew when I started the session. I had just begun shooting some interesting frames- Dan and John had incredibly expressive body movements – I was looking at the two of them through the lens and I was getting excited because I could see and feel the potential of this session. Suddenly Belushi swings around and angrily points to the door and says, “Get that f**king camera out of here!” My cameraman in his excitement and enthusiasm decided to come down the corridor with a 16mm camera on his shoulder and begin filming before I had the chance to ask their approval.
“This turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. John quickly cooled down and the session went on. As we continued to work the session morphed into one of the most brilliant and creative experiences I’d ever had. The two of them took off, there were props, mind bogglingly funny poses, and fascinating satirical skits they’d perform. I got hundreds of shots.
“I developed the one can of film and all we have are about 16 seconds of image with John Belushi turning to the camera with the dialogue being “get that f**king camera out here”. In terms of my film archives it was truly a loss and something I am still sad about to this day. We had an amazing time together nonetheless and the spontaneity of my approach as a photographer and the genius of their interaction flowed together effortlessly.
“Three years later I was commission to do a second session with John Belushi. There was something beyond the humor with John that was always brilliant but also multilayered. I felt the strange, deep sense of alienation and pain beneath whatever he was doing.
“He arrived at the studio with his wife Judy and once again was a total joy to shoot. I remember him dancing with his wife and being amazed at how she handled his humor because he literally used her like a foil to act on. One minute he’d be kissing her and throwing her over his knees, the next minute he’d be swinging her around and the next he’s be acting as if he was really pissed at her. I was amazed at just how Judy allowed herself to be thrown around in the interest of comedy.
“There is something about the photograph below that shows the depth of his character. Even though when I look at the contact sheets that moment was just one in a series of him moving very freely from one state of mind to another, it was almost like he was in a state of deep self-reflection for just that second.”
Source: Norman Seeff Archive
This capsule was curated by Leah Lehrer
Thank you to Norman Seeff