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Prince Pre-Fame
Prince, pre-fameRobert Whitman

Unseen photos of a pre-fame Prince

Photographer and visual artist Robert Whitman’s shots of the artist in his early days in Minneapolis have been collected in a new book

We all know the purple superstar behind “Kiss” and “When Doves Cry”, but a new book of photographs reveals a teenage Prince on the cusp of stardom.

The year is 1977. Prince is just 17 and has caught the attention of Minneapolis manager Owen Husney and his business partner Gary Levinson. Husney needs photographs of the young star, and he wants cult visual artist Robert Whitman to shoot them. To entice him, Levinson comes to Whitman’s house and plays him an early demo of “Soft and Wet”Whitman is hooked, and goes on to photograph the teenage Prince on the street and in the studio.

Unlike the unseen Prince photographs by Nicole Nodland and Afshin Shahidi that were also published this year, here a youthful Prince can be seen at ease and sometimes – God forbid! – smiling. Sporting a denim jacket and a thick rollneck, this is a very different figure to the flamboyant pop icon we know and love.

The book also includes a moving poem dedicated to the star from film director Spike Lee. In an emotional tribute, Lee reminds us what we lost with Prince’s untimely death last year:

Prince’s talent, His Soul,
His Generosity Is
Unquestioned, Is Unmatched
In The Annals
Of Time.

The book, which contains 648 images in total, is only available on Vero in a limited run of 1,200 books.