Dynamic Seattleites: Rock ‘n’ Roll Artist, Lance Mercer

Trendsetting and trailblazing — this Seattleite documents grunge legends.

Lance Mercer’s introduction to photography came from his father, who dabbled with the craft and had a darkroom at home. Eventually Mercer earned his own 35mm SLR and discovered the grunge scene, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Lance Mercer at his home in Georgetown; Photo by Chris Laurion

Passion is Mercer’s driving force, and using photos to tell stories is his M.O. As a fledgling photog he started bringing his camera to underground rock shows around Seattle and shooting everything he saw, hoping to recreate the tension and energy he felt. He also devoured the work of the greats, falling in love with all the greatest street photographers: Robert Frank, Gary Winnograd, Eugene Smith, whom he emulated with hopes of coming into his own.

As his friends moved ahead with their careers, Mercer tagged along. “Next thing I know, I was making a little money, and made the big leap into a ‘career,'” he says.

His new-found career as a rock photographer, though, began through a combination of luck and timing in the hey-day of the grunge scene.

“I knew Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard] from Mother Love Bone and Green River,” Mercer said. “We were all part of the same scene, so I ended up shooting a ton of images of Mother Love Bone. After the lead singer, Andy Wood, passed away, Jeff approached me about shooting the new project, which at the time was Mookie Blaylock, then it turned into Pearl Jam.”

Mercer’s work has been displayed at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York, New York along with some of his rock ‘n’ roll photo idols like Jim Marshall and Mick Rock.  He’s met and befriended legendary photographer Jini Dellaccio, who he says is 94 years young and still full of life. She photographed many of the Northwest rock bands in the 1960s, including The Sonics and Wailers, to name a few.

Mercer has seen and captured grunge legends through his lens, documenting their early years up through fame and rock glory. In late 2006, after three dedicated years of production, Mercer published a book entitled, 5X1: Pearl Jam Through The Eye Of Lance Mercer, a collection of black-and-white images of the band that tells the story behind the scenes of his 15 year journey.

Currently, Mercer is gearing up for even more Pearl Jam mania. He’s coming out with a movie, a book and reissues of music that include a good portion of some of his early unseen images. He’s also getting back to his roots, shooting street photography and spending uninterrupted time with his camera and the life around him.

Mercer recently also had the privilege to photograph memorabilia of Seattle’s grunge luminaries — Nirvana, for the EMP Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibit, which runs through April 2013. Mercer’s work can be seen at the exhibit as well as in the Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind book, edited by Jacob McMurray, and featuring a foreward by Krist Novoselic.

Mercer says he enjoys the collaboration with other artists, and says it’s a huge part of his inspiration, forcing him to think in different ways and put aside his ego. That collaboration has paid off – Mercer is very proud of his work, his epic history with legends, and his book that documented it all. “Regardless of the fact that it’s a book about Pearl Jam, it feels like a yearbook of a time in my life,” he says.

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