In Conversation with Frank White: The Famed Photographer Discusses His New Book and Unbelievable Life

- Feb 16, 2020 at 02:00PM
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A photographer’s job, along with a journalist, is a behind-the-scene agglomeration that modern folk overlook much less appreciate. But these two functioning features, along with the DJ’s of the airwaves, are what introduce the masses to new and burgeoning talent.

Frank White got his start in photography as a teen by ripping off his mom’s camera, sneaking out late at night and taking the subways of New York to shoot concerts like Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, and Dio. Frank has a series of books out based on his photography with the most recent on the Holy Diver himself, Ronnie James Dio.

“My mother was teaching me photography because she was a photographer in the ‘40s and ‘50s. I thought I want to be a part of this and I heard Led Zeppelin was playing Madison Square Garden so I made a plan to head to New York City with my mom’s camera, but the thing is, I never told them I was going into the city, I told them I was going to a friend’s house. I stole the camera out of her closet, lied and said I was going down the street but really I took the bus into New York City."

It’s always a good time for some Led Zeppelin. Watch this performance of “Black Dog” live from Madison Square Garden in New York in 1973:


Mirrors of illusion and lies, one can only imagine the rat-infested, pizza crust embedded railways of the New York/New Jersey subway system. But there’s always a flashbulb involved with treasured memories. “One of my favourite photos is of Ritchie Blackmore taking his guitar and shoving it into a Marshall stack while on fire, during the Rainbow ’Straight Between The Eyes’ tour. During the show, Ritchie started bashing up one of his guitars and I have a whole series of him shoving it into the Marshall and then he takes the guitar which is in pieces and throws it at me. I had a couple of cameras around my neck and both me and other people around me start grabbing at it and I ended up getting the guitar cable. I wrapped it around my arm and people are tugging on me while the show is still going on. After the show, I had all these cable burns on my arms but I still have the guitar cable to this day.”

When things lead to better the fetter of rock n’ roll, it’s the ones behind the scenes that arise as minimal shadows of the ones we project. “I was selling my photos to Kerrang, Rip, Guitar World, Circus, Creem, Hit Parader and Faces. It just snowballed. I was shooting for a ton of magazines in the ‘80s and I still get calls from bands to come down and shoot when they’re in town.”

Out of the darkness, an elf crossed Frank’s path. Almost like Smeagol. One of the most beautiful souls you could ever engage until he walked up to a microphone and turned into Gollum. It was with this he then spake, “There’s a big black shape looking up at me, oh. He said, ‘I’m aware of where you ought to be. He said come with me and I’ll give you desire. But first, you gotta burn, burn, burn in fire.’ I started Frank White Photo Agency in 1986. I go through my photos all the time and I kept seeing all these photos of Sabbath and Ronnie that I shot when I was a kid, even back to like 13 with Rainbow. Then when Dio replaced Ozzy in Sabbath, I met him in ‘84. He was very nice to me and we hung out for a while and had a great conversation. I had photos of him from Rainbow to his last show at the House of Blues. I figured I have photos of every point of his career, including shows in Sweden, Belgium and Holland, and this publishing company contacted me saying, ’I think we have a book here.’”

Check out the music video for the Dio classic “Holy Diver”:


“But as time went on the publisher decided to change the cover and title of my book without letting me know. I was doing press on this book for months, and I was enraged. The softcover isn’t as good as the hardcover but I feel it’s still a very sellable, readable book that the fans will love because I put my whole heart and soul into this, gathering up as many photos as I could through the years and I’m really happy about that. But, I don’t want people to buy both books because they have the same story in them. The only difference is there are a few extra photos in the softcover and I want the public to be aware of that. It wasn’t up to me, it was up to the publisher. This isn’t something I went along with, as I was promoting the original version.”

And as the tail of the dragon curls and the beast rests its head, Frank is still in full flight searching for that sacred heart. “It’s been a really exciting time for me to come full force as opposed to when you’re starting out. Now it’s a world with wide outlets. It’s quite exciting that I’ve been able to be in this business for this amount of time and been able to travel a good part of the world because of it. I’ve stayed with it and I’ve never given up. It’s all I think about.”

You can find Frank’s book at on Wymer Publishing and Amazon.


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