Our cover this week has been provoking some strong reactions — many have expressed how much it means to them to see Michael Jackson so vibrant and on top of the world in a shot that was taken in New York City more than 30 years ago.
Jackson was 18 when the shot was taken in September 1976 on a balcony on the Upper East Side by music photographer Michael Putland. We reached him by telephone in France, where the 62 year-old artist now lives, and asked him to tell us more about the circumstances of the remarkable image.
Putland thinks Michael might have been in New York to promote his Off the Wall album, but that record didn’t come out until 1979.
Whatever brought him to town, Jackson was a tough subject, Putland says. He could hardly believe that someone who projected such a giant personality on stage could be so fragile and soft-spoken in person.
“I felt almost sorry for him while taking the photos. I wanted to say, ‘It’s OK, Michael.'”
Putland says his technique is to encourage subjects to let their personalities show, but with Jackson, that was a difficult task. “I was very surprised at how incredibly fragile he was,” Putland says. “He was very fragile and he was very child-like.”
It was Jackson’s request to wear the deerstalker. Putland remembers thinking that it was a silly hat, but he didn’t have the heart to say no.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2009