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Neal Preston on his digital book: “Led Zeppelin: Sound and Fury”

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June 19, 2013

Corbis Contributor, Neal Preston may have had every rock-n-roll fan’s dream job; he was Led Zeppelin’s photographer from 1970 – 1979. Beyond just tales of life on the road with the legendary band, he’s had a basement full of Zeppelin history for years: never-seen-before contact sheets, video interviews, audio, and more. And now he’s sharing it — all.

Neal Preston has compiled “Led Zeppelin: Sound and Fury”,  a digital book available exclusively on the iPad that offers an interactive and behind-the-scenes look at life with the band. To complement the visual media, Preston provides backstories and entertaining commentary that offer a rare glimpse of both the on-and off-stage Led Zeppelin.  And after you’ve absorbed everything in this digital book, stay tuned for a second edition.

Led Zeppelin: Sound and Fury” is available for $9.99 exclusively on the IBookstore for the iPad only.

We caught up with Neal Preston and asked him a few questions about the project.

CORBIS: What was a day shooting Led Zeppelin like?

NEAL: Well, a day could be 72 hours long, for starters.

Try this on: take 6 people with the strongest personalities you’ve ever seen (4 band members, one manager and one tour manager)…..add some Shakespearian-Level drama for heightened stress levels…….throw in a healthy dose (no pun intended) of groupies, fawning fans, and various other sycophants…..and don’t sleep for days on end…..forget eating properly…..and try to maintain a somewhat manageable “chemical balance”…now go and do your job.

It was a challenge and not for the faint of heart. Sort of like “Fast and Furious 6″ with guitars instead of cars.

CORBIS: Working with film your whole life, how have you adapted creatively to working on a digital format?

NEAL: It’s not about film vs. digital as far as the shooting of the pictures is concerned; all of the pictures were originally shot on film. And all of the pictures obviously had to be digitized. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with analog or digital files- it all has to be digitized in the end.

Needless to say, the workflow with digital files is vastly different than the workflow with transparencies and contact sheets. For the most part I hate shooting digitally (the photos are so sharp they look brittle…like they’ll shatter into little pieces) and I hate editing digitally even more . I absolutely despise it. I’m certain that when I die it will be from some sort of “terminal flat-ass syndrome” , brought on by sitting at the computer for so long.

Give me stacks of chromes and piles of contact sheets any time. It will take me at the very least 60-70% less time to edit analog material. And yes, I still shoot film as much as possible, unless there are deadline considerations involved with a particular job.

What do you think fans will appreciate most about “Led Zeppelin: Sound and Fury” ?

Although I believe all music/pop culture fans will enjoy it, this book was essentially created with the hard-core Zeppelin fans in mind. Everyone knows how cloistered and private the band was.  My intention was to bring the fans as close as possible to the “inner sanctum” through my photos and my writing. Very few people got to travel with, not to mention work with, Led Zeppelin…..in fact, it’s really only recently that I’ve come to appreciate how fortunate I was. I was too busy doing the job!!

CORBIS: How do you think the interactive elements of a digital book enhance the experience?

NEAL: That’s just it: the book is meant to be experiential in nature. I want the readers to FEEL what it was like to be on the road with Led Zeppelin. I put so much of myself into this book that when I finished it I felt drained. Between the photos, the writing, the audio interviews, the video interviews, and other elements, there’s more of me in this book than I’ve ever put into one project…certainly more of me than I’ve ever been comfortable with, although the fact that people seem to really love it makes me feel like it’s ok. I know what it means to be a huge fan of a band, and for Zeppelin fans this book is the manna they crave.

CORBIS: Digital books are the way of the future and that isn’t going to change. How can photographers capitalize on this new and inexpensive format?

NEAL: Ask me again in 6 months.

CORBIS: How did you decide what to include in this book and what to save for the next?

NEAL: I combed through every roll, every proof sheet and every transparency looking for hidden nuggets of gold. Then I decided to include 80 contact sheets in their original form, with all my (and the band’s) edit markings still on them. As someone who loves photography, I’ve always been fascinated with other photographer’s contact sheets and I thought the fans would really enjoy seeing some of them. Between the stories, the contacts, the previously unpublished photos, the classic ones, and all the other content,  the book is meant to feel like  a cross between experiencing being on the road with Led Zeppelin, and sitting with me in the file room at my house, looking at pictures and telling rock stories. And what Zeppelin fan would’t like that?


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Corbis

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