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Exposed: Lynn Goldsmith’s KISS: 1977-1980

January 12, 2018


Veteran photographer Lynn Goldsmith first met Gene Simmons in 1977 when she was assigned to shoot the makeup-clad KISS singer/bassist for the cover of Circus magazine. They immediately bonded over their shared background—Jewish children of single mothers and recipients of teaching degrees—kicking off  a lifelong friendship. Later that year, Goldsmith met the rest of KISS when she documented their Alive II rehearsals at an Air Force base in Newburgh, N.Y., where she struck up a similarly deep friendship with singer/ guitarist Paul Stanley.

Goldsmith was born in Detroit in 1948 and went on to become one of the first female rock-and-roll photographers as well as an acclaimed film director and celebrity portrait photographer. In October, she released her favorite KISS shots from their classic years as the beautiful hardcover book KISS: 1977-1980.

In her introduction, Goldsmith admits to “appreciating singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or Paul Simon a great deal more than the music of KISS, but who would I rather photograph or pay to see in concert? No contest,” later adding that KISS and the KISS Army “form a country of their own, where the only rules are that you be in charge of your own life, be authentic to what you want to be and what you want to do, and not worry about what anyone else thinks of you. Let your freak-flag fly!”

Both Simmons and Stanley provide captions for their non-biological “cousin” throughout the expansive compilation, which was published by Rizzoli, offering an inside peek at the KISS members onstage, in the studio and at the makeup table. “The book brings back memories of a magical time and a magical place,” Simmons says. “When we all dreamed big and wanted to reach for the stars.” 


Photographing KISS in concert was always fun because of the crowd. Their fans were so devoted that many came dressed as their favorite member and then, when KISS hit the stage, they hit it with real power. Paul was fearless in those boots—jumping to new heights. I wouldn’t even try that in sneakers! 


I loved the smoking dragon they used onstage, especially for photos. KISS was truly theatrical. They always thought about the experience that their fans would have at a show, and wanted to make what they did onstage bigger and better every year. Forty years later, and they still do. 


I loved to photograph KISS because it was all about their characters and, once in makeup, you never had to tell them how to be or make them comfortable— their self-invented personas became real. It was fun to figure out what props to have in the studio. I bought the fake blood with hopes that Gene would drink from it. However, I was concerned about the possibility of it ruining his new outfit—thank goodness, Gene was not! He just goes for whatever it takes to make an impactful image. 


Paul and I used to talk about him looking for true love. Unlike Gene—who did not believe in monogamy—Paul was looking for something deeper than just a sexual relationship at the time. I made this background with the heart especially for this shoot because I felt he understood the powers of romantic love.