Behold… the transfiguration of Iggy Pop, during a legendary Stooges show at Ungano’s, New York City, which was recorded by Danny Fields and heavily-bootlegged for years.
The photograph above was taken by Bud Lee. If you don’t know Bud Lee’s work, you really should. Lee was an American original, a freelancer for Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone, working in the golden age of magazine photography during the ‘60s and ‘70s, who, whether by happenstance or design had the uncanny knack of being in just the right place at just the right time. He photographed everything as if it was a happening, a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated event. and in a way that was uniquely his, with a wry, droll humor, an eye for the unusual, the outré, and bizarre. Not for nothing, Lee’s work has been described as existing “in the grand tradition of Diane Arbus,” a photographer he very much admired and had occasion to meet.
In August 1970, Lee somehow found himself at this Stooges show, shooting for an underground magazine called Earth, not really knowing who the Stooges were. Which is understandable because at the time this photograph was taken, they were barely known outside of the cult audience. By way of a compliment, Rolling Stone would tag their music as “loud, boring, tasteless, unimaginative and childish” and pigeon-hole them as “the best Detroit area rock band.”
The Ungano’s show took place on August 17th, 1970, just a few weeks after the release of their second album, “Funhouse,” and drew the likes of Miles Davis, Johnny Winter, and the Warhol Factory crowd to witness the Stooges’ notorious rock & roll circus first-hand.
Bud Lee wasn’t the only photographer working that show. He wasn’t even the only photographer to capture that particular scene– of Iggy lying prostrate in a cruciform among a crowd of youthful and somewhat-perplexed admirers, one of whom apparently (according to Circus Magazine) yelled out, “Are you dead?”
Lee captured this scene like a tableau by a Flemish Baroque painter, with allusions to Ruben’s masterwork, “Descent From The Cross.” And this is likely no accident, as Bud Lee was a fine artist by training and inclination, a photographer only by chance, after he picked up a camera in the mid-60s, while serving in the military and began taking pictures for Stars and Stripes magazine.
After winning an award as “1966 Military Photographer of the Year,” and a short stint working for Life magazine, for whom he covered the 1967 riots in Newark, Lee embarked on a magical journey that found him photographing a panoply of freaks, outsiders, and artists, and eventually landed him at the feet of Iggy in Ungano’s.
To see more of Bud Lee’s work, and own a limited edition, hand-numbered and embossed print of this wondrous and unique Iggy Pop photograph, visit Bud lee’s official website at: https://www.budleepicturemaker.com