Birthdays Part 1 of 3

Between now and January 4th, all of R.E.M. (except Bill) celebrates birthdays. Today is Peter Bucks, who was born on this day, December 6 in 1956.

Over the years I’ve worked with R.E.M. and through that became friends with them, my friendship with each band member evolved in different ways. The band member I knew the best at the outset was Peter. I think partially because he never really identified himself as “Peter Buck in R.E.M., famous rock star.” He was just Peter.

Over the years what I sometimes enjoyed the most about my access to the band was the chance to photograph them in moments that usually weren’t seen.

Peter Buck

I took this photo during the break between soundcheck and the show at the Casbah in San Diego in 2001. Peter’s side project “The Minus 5” was playing there, and this was my second day of shooting them.

I was a student at UCSD at the time, and was using these sessions for my final in photography. I also was using them as an excuse to hang out with Peter, Scott McCaughey and a few others that were on the tour (including R.E.M.s tour and backline managers).

All told I took 700 or so frames of 3200 speed color slide film and 6400 speed black and white. The color film I was pushing up from 1600 and cross processing. It cost a fortune.

This shot was a quiet moment when nothing was happening and we were about to go to get dinner and he was reading the San Diego Reader at the bar. The lighting was perfect and I snapped it and put the camera away. I didn’t realize what I captured until I was printing things in the dark room many weeks later.

This photo became the center of my final. I made copies for my professor, TA, Peter, Michael Stipe, the R.E.M. office and later even sold a poster of it. A print of it now hangs at Live Nation Labs and one at my house.

To me it captures a good friend in a moment off stage, and in his usual demeanor. Quiet, contemplative, smart as hell and always slightly in the shadows.

Happy birthday Peter.


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