By Michele Amabile Angermiller, (Billboard)
Over the span of two world tours, photographer David Bergman had the best seat in the house as the tour photographer for one of the world’s hardest working rock’n’roll bands — Bon Jovi.
The collected images — culled from over 800,000 frames snapped of the band — are now available in a new coffee-table book, Bon Jovi: Work, chronicling the action on stage, backstage, and even in the hospital after a show when Jon Bon Jovi tore his meniscus during a show in Helsinki.
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"I went with the title Work because that is what the band is about with that New Jersey work ethic and the hard work they do every night,” Bergman tells Billboard.
Jon Bon Jovi leads the band onstage in Atlanta on April 15, 2010.
One particular image captures everything the singer feels about his fans, his group and his job, explains Bergman. The band was playing a gig in New York when harrowing skies, pouring rain, then finally ominous lightning strikes postponed the show. This did not sit well with Jon.
"He was hating it," Bergman said. "There is really a flow to a show. He didn’t like that at all because it really killed the momentum. It’s not fun for the fans and it’s not fun for anybody."
Backstage, the band milled around as the rain drenched the venue, but Bergman decided to take some shots. “Jon just kind of peered out waiting for the rain to stop, longingly looking and waiting for the show to get going again, and that was just a moment that won’t be captured if you don’t have a photographer with you on site,” he said. “You are never going to see those moments.”
Adds Bergman: “The good thing about Jon is he gets it. He understands the value of documenting these things.”
The intimate Stories Behind the Photos of ‘Jon Bon Jovi: Work’
Even in his most unglamorous moments following his injury in the hospital in Ireland, acupuncture and rehab, Bon Jovi was willing to be shot. Bergman said he worked through the pain and did not cancel a single show. “The nurses asked him what he was going to do with the pictures and Jon would always laugh and say, ‘They’ll do a book after I die,’” he said. Those shots, Bergman says, provided the thesis of the story.
"When we started putting the book together, I told him the knee story is an inspiring story and goes with the theme of the book and the hard work that he has done and the whole band," Bergman explains.
"Jon looked at me and said, ‘You know what, if it inspires one kid to work through the pain and push through an injury and come out strong on the other side, it’s worth it.’ He knows the influence he has over people and the power that he has with his actions and he wanted people to see it. It gets people by surprise to see one of the biggest rock stars in the world in his hotel room, in pain, in agony — not at his most glamorous — but I am really glad he agreed to let us put it out because it’s a huge part of his story and how he is."
Fireworks at MeLife Stadium on May 26, 2010.
Bergman began his career as a photographer at the Miami Herald, covering news features and sports, until one day he pitched to paper to allow him to photograph singer Gloria Estefan, who was coming off a back injury and embarking on a comeback tour. He became passionate about tour photography after that.
Though Bergman covered many bands, Bon Jovi remained number one on his list. By the time he pitched the group, he was surprised to hear that Jon already knew who he was because of his most famous photo: a GigaPan image of President Barack Obama at his inauguration.
"When I finally did get a meeting and got to talk to them, Jon absolutely knew that photo. He was at the inauguration with his kids," Bergman says. "That photo went crazy. It got 20 million views. They interviewed me on CNN and it went insane, so he knew who I was and he had seen a lot of my sports stuff. He’s a big sports fan. He’s a football guy and I have a lot of pictures over the years from Sports Illustrated and I have a lot of covers. He knew my work.”
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After shooting a few shows, Bergman was surprised to be invited into the band’s inner circle, joining the group on its private plane and going along for the ride.
Bon Jovi: Work also captures other members of the band in the same light. Drummer Tico Torres is an artist, and Bergman took shots of the musician at home painting in his garage in Florida, as well as on the golf course. Keyboardist David Bryan invited Bergman to his New Jersey home, allowing some up-close shots of the composer working on music for a new play, Chasing The Song.
There are plenty of pictures of guitarist Richie Sambora in the book, but Bergman never made it to his home.
"I did photograph him quite a bit," he said. "Whenever those guys were awake, I was there with a camera to take pictures of the two of them practicing, rehearsing, on the plane — whatever it was — day in and day out."
The band in Zurich, Switzerland on July 14, 2011.
One section sure to please fans are the ones taken by Bon Jovi himself. Bergman and the singer spent so much time together that one day, he decided to try photography himself snapping photos of flowers and trees in a park in Vienna.
"Jon is a creative person. He has a good eye and he has always liked taking pictures, but he never really knew the technical side of it," Bergman says.
In a few lessons, Jon proved a quick study. He tried out his skills on family vacations, a safari in Africa, and at the 12/12/12 concert for Hurricane Sandy relief. One photo of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger taken by Jon is featured in the book.
"He was standing there in the photo pit taking pictures of the Stones just like a photographer and a fan, alternating between taking pictures and putting the camera down and watching the show," Bergman said. "The other photographers were taking pictures of Jon."
Other shots in the book — particularly Jon walking a female fan down the aisle in Las Vegas, a shot of Jon doing a famed concert jump on a boat in Australia, and a spontaneous onstage group hug symbolizing what was the end of a tough touring year — frame the collection.
Through it all, Jon remained true to his work ethos, overseeing every aspect of the book.
"He is the CEO of this corporation and everything goes through him. I thought when I first came in I would deal with a publicist or a manager that will approve the photos but from the very beginning Jon saw personally every photo that went out,” he said. “I was blown away by him."
See a gallery of photos from ‘Bon Jovi: Work,’ including an image that’s exclusive to Billboard.
Bon Jovi: Work is available exclusively on Bon Jovi’s official website.