Ever think of the colour purple without thinking of Prince? Impossible. Seductive, erotic and hypnotising, Prince was the walking definition of this colour. The life and soul of Prince represents true artistry and individuality between 1958-2016. It has been said he “lived life like movie”, his head being a constant radio, forming melodies and rhythms – a procedure he used for the “one take” process of his music. He is an iconic symbol of a man who did not go by social norms, he played and performed the way he wanted to completely within his own vision. It seems as if he was obsessed with this controversial colour, making it his total theme for music and art as if he really did adopt it like his own. The newly released book by Mobeen Azhar ‘PRINCE Stories from the Purple Underground’ gives an ultimate pictorial tribute to the artist in the truest form of his life, evolution, career and death. For the first time we see key members of Prince’s ongoing legacy give a first-hand account of the artist in a light never seen before. Author of the piece Mobeen is a fanatic of Prince, even appearing on stage with the man himself, who evidently is the perfect passion and person for the making of the book.
This is a beautiful record of Princes life, it features photos all the way back to when he got his first record deal at 19 years old, to performing at Madison Square Garden decades later. The photographs are bold, powerful and heroic, helping us understand the real Prince on and off stage. It is an unbiased, yet honest portrayal of the artist, making the pages personal and sentimental to the reader. We witness how much of an inspiration he was to many, even teaching one guitarist to only love the way they play guitar and no one else, to fully embrace yourself (without being arrogant). These personal monologues prevent the Purple Underground book from being a cliche autobiography, making us hear the different voices and experiences from many who feature in the book. One story in particular comes to mind which mentions having to share a an awkward moment inside of a lift with him.
Left: Prince in Canada, December 1996. Top right: On stage during the Parade tour, 1986. Bottom right: Photoshoot at Kemps Ice Cream building. Minneapolis. 1997.
What comes to mind when imagining the colour purple? Perhaps a smoky jazz bar or even the only two flags in the world that contain this colour. Although it is seen upon as a colour of spiritual awareness in China it is somewhat a controversial tone, even to be seen as a negative, unlucky or a forbidden colour in some cultures. As a powerful member of the rainbow, it’s a colour that represents a strong level of power which is particularly used by royals or emperors. Considering it to be culturally controversial and neglected in some areas, Prince saw it as the ultimate colour of inspiration (as do some others) which could still quite be an unusual choice to make in the world today.
Karina Taira is a director and stills photographer. She contributed to the ‘Landscape’ issue of .Cent, guest-edited by Sam Hecht.
Minnie Weisz is a photographer, curator & filmaker. She guest edited the ‘Seeing Stories, Telling Pictures’ issue of .Cent Magazine
Megan Spencer is an Australian filmmaker and critic. She contributed to the ‘Intoxication’ issue of .Cent Magazine guest-edited by Richard Milward.
Elise Dumontet is a hair and beauty photographer in London. She contributed to the ‘Contradiction’ issue of .Cent Magazine.