Staff photographer and music lover Jay Janner shares how he was able to get the only non-official photos of Prince at South by Southwest in March 2013:
It was a big night on Saturday, March 16, 2013. Prince and Justin Timberlake were playing small clubs in downtown just a few blocks away from each other. SXSW 2013 was star-studded with famous, established artists including Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, John Fogerty, Depeche Mode and Smashing Pumpkins. But Prince was the biggest of them all and the hottest ticket in town, so I had to get photos of him. I’m a lifelong Prince fan, and I hadn’t seen him in concert since the Purple Rain tour in 1985, so I was looking forward to Prince’s show at the Samsung party at La Zona Rosa.
Unfortunately, the show was off-limits to all photographers except one — Prince’s own. I hoped against hope I would be given access to the show, but as the time got near I realized that I was going to miss the biggest show of the week. Nevertheless, I walked a mile from my parking spot near Red River Street across downtown to La Zona Rosa on West Fourth Street to check out the scene and photograph fans lining up outside.
When I arrived I noticed the glow of blue and white lights coming through a small window. Could that possibly be the lights from the stage? I texted Patrick Caldwell, our writer who was inside to cover the set, and confirmed that I was indeed looking at the stage backdrop with the lit-up Samsung logo. Could it be possible to get a photo of Prince from outside across the street, I wondered. No way, I thought, but then I noticed the mic stand right there in the middle of that tiny window.
So I quickly walked all the way back to my car to get my longest telephoto lens, a big, heavy 400/2.8, and walked all the way back to La Zona Rosa. I was tired from my back-and-forth treks across downtown, but I snagged the exact spot on the curb across West Fourth where the mic stand could be seen through the little window, and I waited along with a few other die-hard Prince fans who couldn’t get in.
Soon the show began and I got my first glimpse of Prince. I made a photo, quickly looked at the back of my camera screen, and to my surprise, I had a decent shot. It would need a major crop, but this was going to work. Prince moved around the stage a lot so I could see him for only brief moments at a time. I stayed on the curb shooting photos for about an hour. Finally, I heard the muffled sounds of the guitar intro to “Purple Rain,” and after that song was over he was gone. I hurried back to my car to edit and send my photos, but it turns out Prince was just getting started. I found out later he played a two-hour encore.