Talking Heads

David Byrne - Tryptych

David Byrne - London 1981

I first came across the Talking Heads  in 1977 on a trip to New York for the NME and photographed them there and again in London when they supported the Ramones at the Roundhouse.

My old friend Tibor Kalman designed their record covers and we often spoke about David Byrne, his intelligence and the need to never disappoint him by doing anything ordinary.

This photo was originally done for the Face in 1981 and as we had done many times we built a small studio in the basement gym in the Warner Brothers building on Broadwick Street. Down there we photographed people as diverse as Laurie Anderson, Bonnie Raitt and the Pretenders.

David Byrne has such photogenic features, it's hard to take a bad photograph and we had just done a series where he pulled and distorted his face, something nobody else would ever agree to do, but for him just seemed natural. As he is a very tall and thin man I then asked him just to sit straight on to the camera.

I took three successive images on the Hasselblad, altering the angle of the camera on the tripod between frames, shooting first his head, then his chest, and finally his hands resting in his lap. It seemed a perfect way to present him, the Face never used it so I'm showing it here for the first time.

I always remember Brian Eno's observation, That it will be so great when Byrne and Bowie are really old, they can sit together on an island and still look cool. Of that I have no doubt.