Unseen photos taken by Prince’s personal photographer

Nicole Nodland publishes unseen images and writes about her intimate, magical time spent with the pop icon

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Nicole Nodland

Nicole Nodland, now the editor-in-chief of the indie journal US OF AMERICA, started her career as the personal photographer to Prince, touring with the band and documenting his life for two years. Since then her portfolio has added icons such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, George Clinton, and Lana del Rey. Here she writes about her time spent with the pop icon and how their relationship came to be.

Prince was an angel to many people— and that is certainly true for me. He gave me my first break as a photographer. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles and was barely making ends meet. I thought I had to leave Minnesota to realize my dreams. Yet, they were waiting for me at home.

While visiting my family in Minnesota, I decided to take a chance. What seems crazy in retrospect makes perfect sense when you are young, broke, and have nothing to lose. So I contacted Paisley Park. I offered my services as a photographer, and by some miracle received a call back. ‘The Boss’ wanted to take a look at my portfolio.

That night, I was surprised and thrilled to get a call from Paisley at 11 p.m., asking me to come and photograph Prince that very night. I put on purple socks for luck and drove to Paisley.

“I was surprised and thrilled to get a call from Paisley at 11 p.m., asking me to come and photograph Prince that very night. I put on purple socks for luck and drove to Paisley.”

Our first meeting feels like yesterday. I walked into the recording studio at Paisley Park around midnight, camera in hand, and found the NPG jamming. I had no idea what to do with myself. Feeling out of place, I began to back towards the door, but stopped short — I could feel him behind me.

I turned around to find Prince staring at me with his intense, big eyes. He asked me just two questions: “How old are you?” and “Do you have any Polaroid?” I answered him. He walked past me and then proceeded to jam with the band. I picked up my camera, and the rest was history.

I became the first in-house photographer at Paisley Park. He brought me into his beautiful bubble. For the next few years I spent all my time at Paisley, surrounded by creativity and music. I was fortunate enough to travel the world with Prince, and accompany him on tour with the New Power Generation.

Prince inspired me by his total freedom, both artistically and personally. He curated his own life and was so brave to have fought for that freedom. He was authentic and free, and more spiritually advanced than most people understand. Even after I left, he was still everything to me. Those who lived at Paisley understand what it’s like. You may have left the bubble, but it doesn’t ever really leave you.

I miss him. I sometimes miss the bubble — being part of a crazy, creative universe. It’s an experience for which I am eternally grateful.

Looking back, I still can’t quite believe my luck. Prince, a man who could’ve hired anyone to be his photographer, took a chance on an unknown girl. This is my small way of saying, “Thank you.” Thank you to the man who invited me into his world, and gave me years of magic I will never forget. Here I present some photographs from my time at Paisley, to celebrate the beautiful, irreplaceable spirit that is Prince.

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