Following the success of these early photos, Elterman began receiving invites to parties and concerts where he'd hang out with some of Hollywood's most notorious names. One thing led to another, and soon his images were appearing in publications across the globe.
Over the years, Elterman's camera has captured Robert De Niro, Nicollette Sheridan, Brooke Shields, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gene Simmons, and Joan Jett in some of Hollywood's most rare an intimate settings.
Most recently, Elterman transformed his portfolio of iconic and decadent images and turned them into a rare and candid book: Like It Was Yesterday: The Photographs of Brad Elterman.
In celebration of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, International Business Times caught up with Elterman to discuss the images that shaped his career.
What's the story behind your first encounter with Bob Dylan?
Well, in 1974, Bob Dylan did a big comeback tour and I lucked out with two front row seats. The show was one of the best that I have ever seen and the energy in the room was nothing like I had ever experienced before.
There were no recent Dylan photos out there, so I sent my shots out to some magazines and newspapers and to Sounds, a British newspaper, who published one of my photos.
Bob Dylan 1974 - Image by Brad Elterman
That wasn't your last time photographing Dylan, you serendipitously ran into him a few year later.
In 1976 I got to meet and photograph Bob Dylan in the dressing room of The Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip. Ronee Blakley was performing a showcase there and she knew that I adored Dylan and made sure that I was on the guest list. It was not a tip-off but a 'come and enjoy the show invite.'
Blakely just kind of said, 'Bob this is Brad, Brad this is Bob.' He remarked that I kind of looked like him because of our curly hair.
Bob heard that Robert De Niro was downstairs and he wanted to meet him. So Bob set up a group shot of him with this new actor, Robert De Niro, and a host of other friends that included musician David Blue, actress/singer Lanie Kazan, actresses Martine Getty and Sally Kirkland.
This was a rare moment. The stars were aligned in my favor. I don't think I slept for two days after that. The adrenaline rush was just wild.
Left to Right: David Blue, Lainie Kazan, Dylan, Sally Kirkland, De Niro, Ronee Blakely, and Martine Getty.
Bob Dylan and Robert De Niro
Your photographic style has a very intimate feel. It seems you were not paparazzi, but rather just a budding photographer who happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Well it wasn't about making money. I was motivated by the passion. I was just a young kid, 18, 19, 20-years-old.
I realized very soon that a picture of somebody holding a guitar, Dylan or whoever, it didn't really matter, to me that wasn't an interesting photograph. They were a dime a dozen.
Dylan was the most interesting player for me. He had all the ingredients for a photo subject. I did this [job] because I had a passion for these icons and for the fact that Dylan was my hero.
Bob Dylan - Image by Brad Elterman
Your images appear to be truly organic, in-that, they feel like they were all very spontaneous.
Yes, well there was no reason to hire a stylist back then. The fashion came naturally-it was all part of the scene. All of the action was on the street. I would use the street as my studio. [It was] all very under produced.
Your photographs not only sold in the U.S. but they were popular amongst international publications, especially in Japan.
I heard about these Japanese music magazines. I started sending them my photographs. They loved Bob Dylan, Freddy Mercury, KISS, and Joni Mitchell. They had tremendous respect for these artists. It was insatiable how much they loved these photos.
In-fact, I bought my first car with cash from Japanese sales.
1979 - Brooke Shields with Gene Simmons
You now run Buzzphoto.com, a website dedicated to current Paparazzi shots; however, you're still very much involved with these older photos. You recently released a book of selected images titled, Like It Was Yesterday: The Photographs of Brad Elterman.
Yes. I pre-released that in December and only wanted to do 500 copies of the book because I want it to be exclusive. I worked with creative director Garland Lynn. He contacted me because he saw my prints and loved them. The book is more than half sold out now.
Behind the Beverly Hills Hotel - Image by Brad Elterman
Once the books are sold out, people can still buy prints from your website, but what is the future for these images?
Right now I'm working with a Swiss artist, Marco Pittori who does prints. He's been embellishing the images. We are doing three exhibitions in Basel, Zurich and Berlin next year. The exhibition will be titled, Hollywood Nude.
Image by Brad Elterman and Marco Pittori.
What stars evoke the same kind of passion that you had 30 years ago?
Lindsay Lohan. She's a stunning beauty. I'd love to have lunch with her and just photograph her throughout the lunch. I'm sure that we are destined to meet one day.
Looking back, how do you feel about your time as a celebrity photographer in the 1970s and 1980s?
The '70s were the greatest education of my life and it affected me culturally. I was surrounded by interesting, creative and eccentric people.
I knew that these were special times and that I was part of something incredibly special. My friends were preparing to go to medical school and I was hanging out with The Ramones.
It was one nonstop party and I constantly reflect on these days today.
At what moment did you feel that your images would one day be seen as 'iconic?'
I took thousands of photographs. Most notable was my photo session with Joan Jett in her motel room in 1977.
Anything with the Ramones was iconic. John Lennon and Ringo Starr at On The Rox was legendary and captured a moment in time.
Getting Travolta to kiss Olivia Newton John at the Grease premiere in 1978 was a classic moment.
Joan Jett - Image by Brad Elterman
Ring Starr and John Lennon - Image by Brad Elterman
John Travolta kissing Olivia Newton John - Image by Brad Elterman
What moment in your career makes you feel the most proud?
In 1977 I got my first photograph in People Magazine with the Dylan-Ronee Blakely photograph. It was an incredible rush of adrenaline and I loved this feeling. I never wanted it to end.
I never considered myself as a paparazzo. Most of my photographs represent when I was hanging out with the talent and working with their management and record companies.
My greatest moments are the ones that I am experiencing today, sharing my photographs and stories on my Tumblr blog with the next generation.
Bob Dylan and Ronee Blakley - Image by Brad Elterman
All images by photographer Brad Elterman.
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