Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 17:55 UK

Photographer on Jackson rehearsals

Renowned rock photographer Kevin Mazur was at Michael Jackson's final tour rehearsal in Los Angeles last week.

Several images from the practice runs have now been released, showing the star dancing and smiling against large neon letters reading "This Is It".

Mazur, who first took pictures of Jackson during the 1984 Victory tour, told the BBC about the "magical" show that was being prepared before the entertainer's untimely death on Thursday.


Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )
The pictures were taken on 23 June, just two days before Jackson died

How much of the rehearsal did you see?

I was there for a couple of days. I was there on the first day when they built the stage, and I took photographs of the dancers and the back-up singers for the tour book. Then, the next day I was taking casual shots of the band and the dancers rehearsing when Michael arrived.

I was like an expectant father waiting for him to take to the stage, I was so excited. And when he came out, I was even more excited because Michael was back.

He was happy, he was energetic, he was full of life. I had such an adrenaline rush. It was like the first time I had photographed him, when he moonwalked.

People were saying he wasn't ready, and the first shows had been pushed back because of his health. Did you see any evidence of that?

A photo tells a story. Michael was physically fit and performing the same way that I photographed him through the years. You can look at the photos. I documented it, I was there.

So how did you feel when, four days later, you were told he had died?

I was so shocked, because from what I saw on Tuesday night, he was full of energy and full of life. I couldn't wait to see this show at the O2 arena with all the fans there.

How much of the production did you see? Were there any big surprises?

There were still certain elements that they had to put into place, but I saw them rehearse about a dozen songs. And Michael never stopped. He worked right through. He did 12 songs and he only paused a couple of times to tweak some stuff with the music and a little bit of the choreography.

They had a screen that ran the full length of the main stage and was maybe about 50 feet high. And, supposedly, I heard they were doing some 3D things. I've been shooting shows for 25 years and I'd never seen anything like that before. I was very curious to see how it would all come together.

Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )
The series of 50 concerts was due to begin in London on 13 July

So you could say the concert was really in the final stages of preparation - with all the individual songs coming together into a coherent show?

Yes, well... everything was pretty much staged and built. There were certain things they were still waiting to get - they had chandeliers they were going to put into the set. But musically and dancing-wise, I got to see it all. But I didn't get to see things like aerial lifts and a few other elements in the show.

And when Michael was done rehearsing, he and Kenny Ortega [choreographer and show producer] went off the stage and they were looking at a bunch of props they had for Thriller and they had a puppeteer using zombie-type creatures that were going to go through the audience. It looked really, really cool.

This was going to be like no show anyone had ever seen.

The picture that has gone around the world today is of Michael in a grey suit, pointing into the centre of the auditorium. What do you remember much about that shot?

That might have been Black Or White - but I don't remember. It's so hard for me to keep track of the songs while I'm shooting, because it's such an adrenalin rush for me. I'm just too excited, and I'm juggling round numerous cameras. But I do know this, it was magical.

There are rumours today that the rehearsals had been filmed and that segments of the concert will be released as a tribute. Were you aware of that?

Not specifically - but everything was documented. That's why I was there. I was there to keep a record photographically, and they also had videographers. He's Michael Jackson and, as you know, he documents everything.

Kevin Mazur was speaking to BBC Entertainment News reporter Mark Savage.



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