Evan Carter was just any other fan sitting in the center of the sixth row at the Fox Theatre in the final moments of Prince’s second show on April 14. Throughout the performance, the professional photographer fought the temptation to document the stripped down, intimate “Piano and a Microphone” concert.
“My girlfriend even offered to bring a bigger purse so I could sneak my camera in,” recalled Carter Tuesday during an interview with Eldredge ATL. “But I didn’t want to risk it. I’m too much of a Prince fan and the rules were too tight. Being at the show was more important than sneaking pictures.”
But after the final encore with the crowd still sonically enveloped in the final chords of “Purple Rain,” Carter noticed that the performer was reaching for his cane. “I knew this was it,” he remembered. As the lights went down, Carter quickly took his smart phone out of its plastic case, took a test shot to meter the light on his phone and as the lights came up one last time, Carter held his breath and with both hands, fired off two frames.
In the process, Carter may have accidentally documented the last moment of the final concert ever performed by Prince. Pleased with the shot he had quickly snapped on his Samsung Galaxy phone, Carter posted it on his Instagram account the next morning. But a week later as news spread of the singer’s death at age 57 and his friends began posting tributes on Facebook, Carter realized what he had stashed on his phone’s camera roll.
“I’ve dedicated a good part of my life to learning how to take photographs well,” Carter says laughing at the irony. “Usually, when I show up to shoot a concert, I bring my best camera and a bag of gear. I once read in one of those starter photography books that the best camera is the one you have with you. So I guess in this case, that’s a cellphone.”
Carter says he’s still floored by just how majestic and victorious Prince appears in the shot. “Only Prince could look like that in his final moment on stage,” Carter says laughing. “Only Prince could look that perfect and have his persona so beautifully defined.”
Now that publications are calling asking to use the image in their Prince tribute issues, Carter is getting some advice from his father, who just so happens to be veteran Atlanta entertainment attorney and artist management representative Russell Carter, the guy who has guided the careers of Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins, Chely Wright, The Bangles and others over the last 30 years.
“Before this, I maybe had three visitors a day on my website,” says Evan. “Dad has given me some great advice about licensing and usage. So it looks like you will see the photograph with my credit on newsstands.”
His Prince photo aside, at 25, Carter is already making great strides in the photography world. He has three pages of his work shot at the recent 30A Songwriters Festival in the current issue of American Songwriter magazine. And he shot the gorgeous photography for the 2015 Indigo Girls album “One Lost Day.”
And while Carter says he’ll make fellow Prince fans a print of the photo as a keepsake, he’s not looking at this as opportunity to make a Brinks truck-sized payday. “There are lots of Prince fans in the world,” he explains. “I posted the photo online because I wanted to share it with everyone who loved him and his music.”
For Carter, being in the audience and hearing Prince perform a ballad rendition of one of his all-time favorite songs is what he’ll remember most about the evening.
“I don’t usually get super emotional at most concerts,” he says. “Last summer, I shed a few tears when the Indigo Girls played their ‘Swamp Ophelia’ album because it means a lot to me, especially since they’ve been in my life since I was a baby. But when Prince began playing ‘I Would Die For U,’ I found myself looking up at the ceiling of the Fox trying not to cry. It was just an incredibly special evening. So yeah, Prince knocked me out about 12 minutes into the show!”
Richard L. Eldredge is the founder and editor in chief of Eldredge ATL. As a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, he has covered Atlanta since 1990.