Weekender

Prince’s former personal photographer to talk about new book, experiences in State College

“Picturing Prince” includes rare images from the late legendary musician’s former art director.
“Picturing Prince” includes rare images from the late legendary musician’s former art director. Photo provided

Not many people can say they’ve gotten a midnight phone call from Prince, saying he needed a camel ASAP.

Steve Parke, the late legendary musician’s former art director, sure can.

Parke, author of “Picturing Prince,” will be making an appearance at the State College Barnes & Noble on Benner Pike at 3 p.m. Saturday.

He worked for Prince for 14 years and now resides in Baltimore.

His book is a compilation of previously unseen photos of Prince, accompanied by first-hand stories from working alongside the musician, who died in 2016.

“It’s pretty interesting because, most of the time, it was usually just the two of us,” Parke said. “There wasn’t a big production crew around or anything like that, which is normally how you do a photo shoot. We rarely, rarely ever had that.”

Parke said he started out working for one of Prince’s band members to whom he was introduced through a mutual friend. The band member sent Parke’s work to Prince, whose manager started him out as a set painter.

As Parke continued to prove himself through multiple projects and opportunities Prince gave him, he eventually worked his way up to being Prince’s art director.

“As art director, I went from painting sets to doing merchandise. I did set design while he was touring. I did interior design for studios,” Parke said. “Pretty much anything that came along, he looked at me as the visual creative person who could handle a lot of stuff.”

When digital cameras became popular in the mid ’90s, Prince asked if Parke could use them. He had done photography on the side for his college newspaper, and so Parke said yes. Parke said that’s how he became Prince’s personal photographer from 1996 to 2001.

From shots of Prince getting his hair done to a photo of Prince with gold paint on his stomach spelling out the word “free,” Parke said the photos he captured of Prince showed a less publicized side of the star.

“One thing I learned about my own work — it was very much a different side of him. He wasn’t being so much the rock star for me,” Parke said. “On occasion we did those kinds of shoots, but a lot of what I have is relatively casual.”

The Barnes & Noble event, as part of his book tour, will feature a slideshow presentation of some of Parke’s photos that he is looking forward to sharing the stories behind. The event will also be a joint book signing with Parke’s girlfriend, Carolyn Turgeon, a fairy tale novelist.

Turgeon, a State College native, has a book titled “The Faerie Handbook,” coming out on Nov. 14. Her book is an anthology of enchanted-themed recipes, essays, art, fashion and photography, some of which was done by Parke.

“We collaborated a little bit, so it sort of makes sense, even though on the surface, a book about fairies and a book about Prince seems kind of weird,” Turgeon said.

After Prince died last year, Parke said he posted some of his work on Facebook and got a lot of positive reactions, including people telling him he should write a book.

Parke said he had a friend who wasn’t doing well medically at the time. He thought if he could sell this book, he might be able to help his friend out financially, which he has now been able to do.

“There were a lot of reasons: Feeling like it was something fans would enjoy, giving them a sense of knowing Prince the way I did,” Parke said. “I thought I could help people with their grieving process while also helping out this friend of mine at the same time. Those are the two real reasons.”

Parke’s book was released overseas in April and in the U.S., with 16 bonus pages, in September.

Katie DeFiore is a Penn State journalism student.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Author event: “Picturing Prince: An Intimate Portrait”
  • When: 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Barnes & Noble, 365 Benner Pike, State College
  • Info: stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2826
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