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Norman Seeff on the "cream pie" photo session

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TAN Mitsugu

Dec 15, 2012, 7:20:45 AM12/15/12
I believe that the photos for the new cover art of Läther
come from a 1976 photo session with Norman Seeff, who talked
about them (especially the one with a cream pie) in a Japanese
magazine eight years ago. Here's my translation of an excerpt
from the article.

Original text:
Norman Seeff "The Power and the Passion to Create: Episode 5 -
Sunset Boulevard Studio, Part 1", Record Collectors' Magazine,
Aug. 2004. (Coordinator: Yamada Yumiko)

This episode first describes his situation in the mid '70s -
at the time, he quit United Artists Records and returned to a
freelance photographer. Then, the story is going into the
Zappa session:


My approach for photo sessions was changing, too. I didn't want
to take photos of people that just posed in a motionless posture.
Rather, I wanted to capture natural expressions of artists full
of lively emotions. My aim was to let them show their other
aspects that were usually hidden from the public's eyes. For
that purpose, it was the most important task for me to achieve a
trustful relationship with artists, which would lead them to open
their heart to me. I started this experiment on communicating
with artists in a deeper level, and shortly thereafter, Frank
Zappa asked me to do a photo session with him.


When he came to the studio, I explained my intention, and then
asked him: "How open can you be?" He grinned and said, "As open
as you want".

This reply was very encouraging, so I thought "All right, since
he's Frank Zappa, it's OK to do this for him" and threw a cream
pie against his face. But, by accident, some of the cream got
into his ear. As a musician who took care of his hearing ability
more than anything else, he got furious. And it gave me a very
precious lessen: if you want to open someone's heart and achieve
a trustful relationship, don't throw a cream pie.

In spite of this false start, the rest of the session went quite
well. After cleaning up the wreck of the pie, Zappa turned out
to be a subject with full of imagination. For example, he picked
up a mop in the studio and gave us various performances with it.
After that, he took an electric fan, and so on. His imagination
was limitless, and he was never hesitant to try bold and
refreshing ideas. And this session yielded plenty of wonderful
photos of Frank Zappa.

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