JJ Gonson’s best photograph: a smile from Elliott Smith

JJ Gonson’s best photograph: a smile from Elliott Smith

August 27, 2020

‘There was this cult of personality around him – the dark, tortured figure – but this shows the tip of the hat, the sideways glance: that’s the actual person’

In 1985, I was in line at a Hüsker Dü concert and started talking to this guy who had started a fanzine. I had no idea what a fanzine was but I loved music and saw an opportunity to go to shows for free. I latched on to the fanzine and started shooting bands like Black Flag and Sonic Youth, then went on to work for magazines such as [skateboarding title] Thrasher. After a few years, I decided to finish my photography degree. So, at 22, I called my editors and I said: “I’m retiring.”

I finished my degree before literally running away to join a circus. I landed in Portland, Oregon. I was working in a cafe when I met this band, Heatmiser, which Elliott Smith was in. We became friends and we used to hang out, cook meals and watch TV.

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