NEW YORK (AP) – It's been two months since Michael Jackson died, but for the photographer who captured Jackson during some of his most iconic, explosive moments, accepting the fact that the King of Pop is gone is hard.
"I think that there's no reason that Michael shouldn't be here, and I think it's very sad," said Harrison Funk, who was Jackson's personal photographer for over two decades.
Funk first met Jackson 25 years ago, when he was asked to take photos of the Jacksons on their Victory tour. It was Jackson near his popularity apex, with "Thriller" becoming the best-selling album of all time. While Funk described Jackson as "a bit quiet, maybe even shy," he knew what he wanted in a photo.
"Working with Michael was a visual collaboration. He didn't dictate terms but you knew he knew what he wanted visually," said Funk, whose photos were featured in The Source magazine's special tribute to Jackson. "He really had a vision for himself and his brothers."
And while Jackson had a reputation as an artistic perfectionist, Funk said he wasn't controlling when it came to letting him get his shot.
"Michael's big understanding of how to work with a photographer is to let a photographer do his job," he said. "He understood the craft very well, and I loved that about him, and I thought that was amazing."
While some stars may be camera-shy, Jackson wanted to cameras documenting his moves: Funk says Jackson's desire to have cameras around him came from advice Paul McCartney gave the superstar to "document everything."
"And Michael loved that, he loved to document everything."
Funk's photos of Jackson ranged from onstage portraits to meet-and-greets backstage to elaborate publicity shots. He recalls a photo he took of Jackson with Nelson Mandela; the South African leader was as excited to see Jackson as Jackson was to meet the legendary activist. Another photo captured Jackson doing one of his signature dance moves.
But Funk says one of his favorites is of a photo he took of Jackson three years ago, when he was accepting an award at the World Music Awards, and Jackson reached his hand out to touch a fan.
"I love the spirit, I love the way Michael just walked over to his fans and started reaching out to him," Funk said.
Funk refused to talk about any personal details about Jackson's life, citing confidentiality agreements. He also said he didn't want to discuss Jackson's personal troubles, and expressed disappointment at Jackson's troubled image.
"That is probably the thing that bothers me the most about how people perceive Michael, because they never got to know Michael as a person, and to know Michael as a person was to laugh and have fun and share an understanding of humanity," he said.
Funk was slated to work with Jackson on his "This is It" comeback concerts in London in July; Jackson died on June 25.
"I was looking forward to seeing these shows, I thought these shows were going to be one of his greatest, if not most momentous tours," he said. "I think Michael had a very definite game plan, but Michael always had a definite game plan. I'm devastated that he's not going to be able to do it."