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The Guardian: Run-DMC in leaky amphibious car drive into the Hudson - hear both sides of the story
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'The plug wasn't in. It began to sink'

What's it like to photograph somebody famous? Or to be that famous person, posing for a photograph? Leo Benedictus picks a great portrait - and hears both sides of the story

February 7, 2008
The Guardian

Resized Image
Jonas Karlsson's photograph of Run-DMC (2005)

Jonas Karlsson: What you see here is exactly what happened. With all these hip-hop guys driving big Bentleys, we thought it would be nice to show Run-DMC, old-school hip-hop artists, in something a little cooler. So we rented this amphibious car and took it to a little dock near Jersey City with a ramp for boats. A couple of hours before Run-DMC arrived, we put the car on the water - and it started to sink. We found the problem: the plug wasn't in. Then the engine stopped. Somehow the guy in charge made it work, and Run-DMC finally drove down the ramp. I crossed my fingers it wouldn't sink.

This was the Hudson, which gets pretty rough, and those cars are designed more for small lakes. So it got a little scary. You can see the gaffer tape on the doors to stop them leaking.

We were in another boat, holding out strobe lights on big booms. I had to hold the camera down to the water, taking pictures without looking through a viewfinder. Once in a while, it got a little wet, but it was all right. When you stretch things, you get something that's a little different. We were also a little nervous about permits, particularly when the coast guard showed up. But they just got out their own camera and started snapping. After the shots were published, I got a list from Run-DMC requesting one print of this size, two more of that size, and so on.

I guess they liked it too.

DMC (at the wheel): This was crazy. I thought we were just going to take it by the shore, then they would make it look right and get the Statue of Liberty in. But we really went out into the deep part of the water. And it wasn't just rough that day. It was very rough - and cold. The car was very shaky. We were saying to each other: "You know, this thing is going to tip over."

Usually, being photographed doesn't bother me. Annie Leibovitz is the best. You go into her studio and she'll go click, click, click, then say: "OK, go home." I hate it when you go in for the photoshoot and see 12 rolls of film lined up. You say to yourself, "This is going to be a long day."

But during this shoot, it was us driving them crazy. It was like: "Hurry up and take the picture!" After he took a couple, we were like: "We're leaving! You've got enough pictures!" But then we cooperated, because it looked like they were going to cry. And Jonas took a good picture, because he got us looking like we're chilling. I guess he must have caught us when we shut up for three seconds.

We always thought the idea was cool, because Run-DMC was never about the bling anyway: it was about showing the world what's real about hip-hop. We requested a few prints. I've still got mine.


Image from Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008 is at the National Portrait Gallery, London (020-7312 2490), February 14 to May 26

Posted on: 2008/2/7 14:51

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