One of hip-hop’s most respected photographers, Simone Green was right in the thick of things during Death Row’s 90s dominance. Along with being behind some of the most memorable images of that era, she’s recently released her book Time Served: My Days and Nights on Death Row Records available now at www.Deathrowtimeserved.com .
Tomorrow through July 29th, her work will be on exhibition at the Auburn Research Library, in Atlanta, Georgia. We had the chance to sit down with Simone and discuss her new book as well as what it was like being *the* Death Row photographer.
You’ve mentioned in the past that your photography became lucrative once you started shooting for Death Row. Prior to this, where were you shooting?
I worked at “Soul Train,” and I did some freelance work at the Jack the Rapper convention.
You’ve mentioned a level of bullying at Death Row. Had any of it ever stemmed from your photos?
(Laughs) No, they never had a problem with my work. Even now, with so much that went on and I had to get closure. I had a conversation with Suge and he straight-up apologized, but we didn’t have a problem when it came to my work.
The bullying was everybody there thought they might step out of line, and everyday something could happen. One day, it was me. But, in terms of my work, I had my first experience at Death Row on the “Doggy Dog World” video shoot. It was such an experience seeing that incredibly artistry on another level.
The image of Death Row, from the cover arts to the promotional images, conveyed a very specific style. When working, did Suge give you any specific instructions or boundaries?
No, not very outward or noticeable. One time I was late for a party Dre was having. He said I was too late to shoot what he wanted, so he sent me home. Otherwise, I had no other instructions. Suge wanted everything shot though, every time he was seen he wanted pictures taken.
One incredible thing about your work is that you own the rights to all your photos. Knowing Suge never got that in contract, were there ever any discussions regarding the rights?
No, never. Really, I don’t give that away and we would have had a problem. When I first took photos, I demanded respect. Knowing by-lines and rules, I had to get it and did it. I’ve learned if you don’t mention it, they don’t mention it. I had a cousin who was hard on me for getting photos. I couldn’t sing or dance, so I had to be the best at it.
After the book’s release, have you been in contact with anyone from Death Row?
Just Sam Sneed, nobody else.
What’s one photo from your time at Death Row that you consider the quintessential Simone Green at Death Row photo?
The one with Snoop where the shadow falls off him. Snoop’s easy to photograph. He slips into any mode for any kind of picture.
Out of your entire body of work, which photo are you most proud of?
There’s one of a Teena Maria live performance. I did her make-up and photographed her in Atlanta at one of the last shows she did before she died. There’s a real feel to the picture.
Why do you prefer shooting on film over digital?
With digital, you lose a slight bit of detail. You can see the softness better on film. Digital swings at you sharp and it can look overdone, whereas film tries to calm that down.
I also like the hands on feel of working with film. I like being in the dark room and watching the film develop. It really feels like mine.
Interview conducted by Chaz Kangas
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