It is impossible for Jimmy Barnes to sit still.
The rocker and author is like the battery bunny, constantly vibrating even when he’s not on the move.
Jesse Lizotte, his nephew and sought-after photographer for GQ and Vogue, was acutely aware he had to work quickly to shoot Barnes for the striking cover image of his new book Killing Time.
“He has the attention span of a fly,” Lizotte said with a chuckle. “I knew it had to be a completely seamless experience, so we booked a studio about five minutes from his house.
“And we had the music blasting as loud as we possibly could because he’s quite deaf.”
Friendly family sledging aside, Lizotte says he was more nervous about the prospect of shooting his uncle than he’s ever been in his career.
The 29-year-old self-taught photographer, whose portfolio includes Billie Eilish for Vogue Australia last year plus covers and fashion spreads of Jason Momoa, Ben Simmons and Troye Sivan for GQ, has waited years to work with Barnes.
They finally collaborated for the first time with a shoot for his My Criminal Record solo album, which was released last year.
Barnes had been captivated by his nephew’s evocative portraits of Yakuza and Los Angeles street gang members taken early in his career as he practised his craft.
“I was actually terrified of working with him; there isn’t that sense of detachment, it’s very personal,” Lizotte said.
“Our family is very close and it was extremely vulnerable for him to sit in front of my camera for the first time.
“It’s one of those things you have to be asked to do rather than me saying ‘Uncle Jim, can I take your picture?’
“But it was important for him to do it with someone he felt comfortable with.”
His fierce yet pensive, straight-down-the-barrel image of Barnes, which stares from the cover of Killing Time, was captured in the final five minutes of their collaboration after an hour or so of “letting him do what he does”.
“With both My Criminal Record and now the Killing Time book, he wanted the same gritty and raw and real vibe of my early work and that’s what I love to do,” Lizotte said.
“He’s got the face for it. He’s at that point in his career where his face tells the story.”
Killing Time, published by HarperCollins Australia, follows Barnes’ best-selling, award-winning memoirs Working Class Boy and Working Class Man.
To be released in October, it is a collection of stories from Barnes’ life on the road and the myriad characters and often hilarious circumstances of five decades spent in the service of rock’n’roll.
As the 64-year-old author explains in the book’s introduction, the title was partly inspired by all those countless and often frustrating hours spent trying to get to the next gig.
In Cold Chisel’s early career, that often became mission impossible when their van broke down in the middle of nowhere and later on, when flights were delayed by the whims of the weather.
To perform for just 90 minutes or so a night, there were interminable hours wasted just waiting around in cars or vans, hotel rooms or lobbies and backstage dressing rooms.
“Musicians kill time in different ways. Some write songs, watch television or catch up on sleep (always a good thing to do),” Barnes writes.
“Others keep fit by heading to a local gym or going jogging. Or take in the local tourist attractions.
“In my early days, all of that seemed a bit dorky, not rock ’n’ roll enough. And sleep was definitely overrated.
“I preferred to go out drinking and looking for trouble.”
Now, he spends that spare time reading and writing books.
Don’t kill time in a queue. Pre-order your copy of Jimmy Barnes’ Killing Time here.