David Bergman has 13 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit. Along with multiple Superbowls and Olympics, he has photographed six US Presidents and numerous celebrities, but Bergman’s longtime love of music (he attended Berklee College of Music) has kept him on the road on Bon Jovi’s world tours since 2010. Living, breathing and documenting a rock star’s livelihood has resulted in one of the more stunning photo books we’ve seen to date.
This oversized, 210-page book includes many two-page photo spreads and a five-page gatefold that opens to about 42 inches—almost as long as the average electric bass. The color and reproduction quality match the excellence of the photos themselves.
Well organized, the book opens with full- and two-page bleeds of the band members backstage, readying for the show, and continues the story, more-or-less in chronological order, through the tour. Bergman has a keen eye for micro expressions, and the shot of Bon Jovi taking the stage “two seconds away from the spotlight” captures the artist’s intensity and focus; Bon Jovi bears the “Don’t fuck with me, I’m ready” look of a lineman just before the snap, or a lawyer about to argue a death-penalty case he plans to win. Later, when Bon Jovi suffers a serious knee injury and finishes the show anyway, Bergman spins out his intimate tale of pain, surgery and recovery in somber sepia. (I saw no actual black-and-white prints.) Performance shots are first-rate and the offstage images are telling.
Every photo is identified by place, but I would have liked to read a little more background because when Bergman does explain a photo, it is invariably interesting. One dinner in London, for example shows Bon Jovi standing up to give a toast, and I would have welcomed a few details about the situation. When Bergman lectures, he describes how he sets up shots, and for anyone even slightly photo-nerdy, the technical details of producing a shot from the roof of Chicago’s Soldier Field are fascinating—but that’s about photography, not Jon Bon Jovi, and perhaps understandable. On the other hand, a determined woman in the front row, straining mightily to grab Bon Jovi’s (admittedly appealing) butt needs no explanation, nor is any offered. If Bergman’s erred, it’s on the side of allowing the photos to speak for themselves.
Reasonably priced, this book will please not only Bon Jovi fans and rock photography enthusiasts, but anyone who’d like a peek at a rock star’s world not only during those exhilarating hours on stage, but before and after, when the world isn’t watching.
– Suzanne Cadgène