logan center for the arts

‘Wall of Blues' Retrospective Pays Homage to Paul Natkin Music Photography

Exhibition runs through Dec. 10 at Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts

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Chicagoan Paul Natkin has photographed many major music stars over the past 45 years, including The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Tina Turner. 

"I used to go to concerts, without exaggeration, five nights a week for 52 weeks a year," Natkin explained.

Natkin has photographed musicians from practically every musical genre, but he has a special place in his heart for blues. 

"I just love the music," he said. "It's a truly American art form."

A retrospective of some of his blues photographs can be seen at Café Logan, inside the Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus. The exhibition includes photos of John Lee Hooker, Albert King and Honeyboy Edwards, among many others.

Early in his career, Natkin met Muddy Water’s manager, "and he started inviting me to shows. Anytime Muddy played in town, it’s like, 'Hey, why don’t you come and hang out and take pictures.' That’s like being asked to hang out with the Rolling Stones."

One of Natkin’s favorites is Buddy Guy, whom he’s been photographing for some 40 years. But they never talk about them.

"I’ve shot like four album covers for him, and he obviously sees those. I shot the cover of his book, he obviously sees that, and he keeps asking me to shoot more so he must like them."

Natkin is grateful for all the wonderful friendships he has developed with countless musicians over the years.

He is also passionate about keeping the blues alive, saying, "The world of the blues has become older and older. They now talk about 50-yea- old guys as being young guys, and I don’t want that to go away. I want to see 20- and 30-year-olds playing music."

Natkin’s photography exhibition is part of the Logan Center Bluesfest, happening Oct. 15 through Oct. 17. In-person concerts are $10, while all other in-person programming and the festival livestream are free.

Leigh Fagin, senior director of programming and engagement at the Logan Center for the Arts says, “We’re just hoping that [Natkin] can help raise the visibility of some of the artists we may have lost and some of the artists people should tune into the future, because he’s got his eye on all of it."

A special auction of some of Natkin’s photographs will benefit Guitars Over Guns, a non-profit organization that offers music education and mentoring.

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