In 1996 Jewel wrote a song, “Who Will Save Your Soul,” a thoughtful poem about the struggle of life and redemption. The song later brought her national attention as well as a Grammy nomination. On assignment for People magazine I was asked to make a portrait that illustrated her story.
Jewel’s home was located in an urban section of San Diego. On my arrival Nedra, Jewel’s mother, directed me inside. Jewel, raised in Alaska, shared a home with her mom.
I photographed Jewel in three different settings; surfing, painting on a canvas and sitting in her ’67 Volkswagen van. The van seemed the most comfortable location for her. She used the van to travel to gigs and it served as a place for her to sleep for out-of-town performances.
In the Volkswagen Jewel started to sing, “Who Will Save Your Soul”. Her voice was passionate yet soft. I was awestruck by the private concert that transpired. Passersby didn’t seem to notice the chart-topping singer songwriter was performing on this narrow street.
Jewel was unpretentious in every way. There was no hair and make-up stylist. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She didn’t even wear shoes. Photographing Jewel was one of my favorite celebrity shoots of all time.
The van photo has achieved iconic status. Every few months I get a request to use the photo on-line or in a publication. Several months ago I got a call from a photo editor at Entertainment Weekly. She remembered the photo. She wanted to use it as the opening spread for a dedicated issue about Jewel. She said it was a beautiful picture that symbolized Jewel’s humble beginnings. That’s how I remember it too.