Photographer Nancy Bundt was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when she first met Prince.
It was in 1976 at the birthday party of Owen Husney, the man that discovered Prince and first brought him to Warner Bros; Prince was just 16 at the time. She said, “I remember thinking he was interesting and was told he played 26 instruments. I didn’t understand [at the time] that he was a brilliant musician, or who he would become.”
The first time she photographed Prince was on his birthday, June 7, 1984, at a concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis. “I hadn’t heard his music before then," she said. “I liked it but I was not a crazed fan.”
Later that year, she was asked to shoot photos with Prince art directing his Revolution band members Wendy and Lisa. After arriving at Prince’s “purple house” in a suburb of Minneapolis, Bundt recalled, “He was soft spoken, a bit shy but knew exactly what he wanted in a photograph. He was wearing what looked like his stage costume, but I think it was just the way he dressed at the time. It was probably one of the only times we really talked about the images he wanted. It was easy for me to work with him.”
Bundt added, “He liked the photos and then his managers asked me to shoot a rehearsal for the Purple Rain tour. The photos were to be used on the video cover.” From there she was asked to be the Purple Rain Tour photographer. “It wasn’t something I aspired to or even asked for," she said. "I would say it just fell into my lap.”
Bundt would spend more than four months on the road with Prince for the U.S tour. “He often looked directly into my lens, his face sometimes filling the frame and the energy made me almost leap backwards," she said. "It was intense. He also had the most beautiful hands, and I shot close ups of them on the guitar when I could.
“I wanted to show his beauty and energy, just like I try to do with everyone I shoot. It wasn’t difficult with him of course," she continued. "The performances were lit beautifully. I just had to wait for the right moment.”
Bundt said that Prince once asked her to photograph the yellow and orange autumn leaves so he could write a poem to go along with the image. “I thought that was cool,” she said. Bundt went into a maple grove and it became a two-page spread in his Purple Rain tour book. She said that he also asked her to photograph his white dove. “The dove opened its wings and that photo was in the tour book as well,” she added. The tour photographs appeared in Rolling Stone and LIFE magazine, among other magazines.
Bundt sums up her experience with Prince by describing how “professional he and everyone around him was and how dedicated he was to 'making each performance the best one.'”
“He was generous in many unwritten ways," she said. "And of course ... it was just so cool to be doing it.”
After her time on tour, “I thought it might destroy my reputation as a corporate annual report shooter, but after the tour even the CEOs of the companies were excited to have ‘Prince's photographer’ photograph them," Bundt said. "I think all powerful people sort of want to be rock stars.”
Bundt now lives in Oslo, Norway, where she continues to photograph everything from commercial work to portraits to cookbooks.
Bundt is "very sad and stunned" by the music legend's passing last month. Prince died on April 21 at age 57.
“Everyone knows he was an amazingly talented and creative person," she said. "More than anyone I had ever met. He was so unique, definitely one of a kind."