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Memory Lane

Not many music fans can claim Beck as their career counselor, but that's exactly what he was to photographer Autumn de Wilde.

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Not many music fans can claim Beck as their career counselor, but that's exactly what he was to photographer Autumn de Wilde. The Los Angeles-based singer suggested de Wilde go pro after seeing some shots she took for fun during one of his concerts in 1994. "I didn't know what I was doing," she admits.

Things have certainly changed: In the ensuing years, de Wilde has become the indie-rock photographer of choice, working with Pavement, Death Cab for Cutie, The White Stripes and Rilo Kiley. She also has widened her lens to include the worlds of fashion, film and art, working extensively with Rodarte's Kate and Laura Mulleavy, director Michel Gondry and artist Miranda July. Now, de Wilde is publishing her first book, "Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde," about the wistful folk-pop singer-songwriter who committed suicide in 2003 at age 34. Alongside her photographs — which range from album cover shoots to private moments — are interviews with Smith's family, friends and fellow musicians.

"There isn't enough for people who miss Elliott to look through. Everything is so scattered," says de Wilde by phone from Los Angeles, where she lives with her young daughter. But putting the book together was not an easy process for her. "It was very painful," she continues softly. "It's very strange to have a subject who was so important to me — and was so important to the way I did things after that. I lost a muse."

Featured in the tome are photographs de Wilde took of her first encounter with Smith — a night out and the morning after in New York's Lower East Side a decade ago. The two had met briefly in Los Angeles, and de Wilde, in New York to visit a friend, recognized Smith on the street.

"I just waved like an idiot, thinking, 'Of course he doesn't know who I am,' but he asked me to join him for a beer," she remembers.

De Wilde, who takes her camera with her wherever she goes, took a few shots of a playful Smith standing on the sidewalk over the graffitied word "Freak." Those prints ended up in her portfolio, which wound up in Smith's hands a year later when he was looking for a photographer to shoot the cover for his album "Figure 8." He tapped de Wilde and the two began their collaboration.
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