Book Review: ‘Prince: A Private View’

Prince A Private View

St. Martin’s Press

When Prince passed away on April 21, 2016, it was a communal suckerpunch felt around the world. Fans were left reeling at the loss, mourning the man, the music, and his impact on the arts at large. While The Purple One was often shrouded in mystery, it only added to his allure. Despite his enigmatic ways, he was never afraid to be who he was, a shining beacon for those who felt different or unsure about their place in this life. Now, in Prince: A Private View, Prince’s trusted photographer, videographer and long-time collaborator, Afshin Shahidi, is peeling back the curtain, giving fans a rarely-seen take on the real man behind the funk.

This photo book is packed with hundreds of mostly unseen images which offer a wide variety of lost and stolen moments. We catch glimpses of Prince just hanging out and being himself; we ride shotgun on his tour bus with staged photos taken from the road. There are creative, art-directed shots, and, of course, plenty of in-concert stills of the legend and his axe. Shahidi was the only photographer allowed to shoot Prince’s renowned 3121 parties at his Los Angeles home, events which quickly became the hottest of Hollywood invites.

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but to help, Shahidi frames his work with text that helps tell Prince’s story. The photographer shares how he met Prince in 1993, a meeting that would forever change his life. His tales from inside Prince’s trusted entourage resonate: the anecdotes are personal and insightful, offering tiny slices of Prince’s personality, from his kindness and spirituality, to his love and support of other artists. Working his way from film loader to cinematographer and later to photographer, Shahidi walks us through his once-in-a-lifetime journey, imparting the possibilities that could lie ahead if you fake-it-til-you-make-it and work hard.

Needless to say, the photos themselves are stunning, highlighting The Artist’s delicate features, beauty and the fire that made him pop. Prince: A Private View is the perfect companion for any die-hard Prince or music fan, but it’s also a stark reminder of the many artists—not just The Artist—we’ve lost of late. Alas, the book serves as its own artifact of funkier days gone by—and, as they say: We’ll always have the music.