Rock photographer Paul Natkin didn't just shoot superstars—he was one

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Judas Priest, 1983
"Paul Natkin: Superstars," the new exhibit at the Ed Paschke Art Center, marks the first retrospective of the Chicago native's four-decade career in music photography. Featuring subjects as diverse as Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Ice Cube, and Guns N' Roses, each of the 21 photographs tells a story, some of music history, others of Natkin's career milestones, and many of both.

Natkin is a superstar in his own right. The exhibit is a sampling from a career that took him on the road with the Rolling Stones, behind the scenes with Prince, and put his work in the pages of Time, Rolling Stone, Creem, People, and Playboy.

Bruce Springsteen, 1985
A photograph of a Bruce Springsteen wearing jeans and a sleeveless flannel and strumming his guitar may take visitors back to 1985, when the image graced the cover of Newsweek. But when Natkin thinks of it, he flashes back to what he calls "the biggest moment of my life."

"Newsweek and Time are the pinnacles [of a photographer's career]," he says, "and led to an amazing series of events for me, which included becoming Oprah Winfrey's personal photographer."

Another image, this one from 1982, shows Ozzy Osborne holding guitarist Randy Rhoads, then one of the most promising guitarists in the genre, above his head as the guitarist played. Rhoads died in a plane crash about a month later.

"Many people have told me it is the greatest heavy-metal picture ever taken," Natkin says shyly.

The exhibit also features a 1976 photograph of Muddy Waters, the first picture Natkin sold to the Reader.

Natkin had a long-standing friendship with Paschke, who died in 2004, and with whom he's pleased to now share gallery space, especially in the Jefferson Park venue: "It's really nice to see a blue-collar neighborhood where people can walk in seven days a week and see millions of dollars of original art on the walls—for free."

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