The Difference

Boy from U2 album covers shares story behind photos

The Difference

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Cover of U2's album "Boy" (L) and an unpublished outtake (R)

Cover of U2's album "Boy" (L) and an unpublished outtake (R)

In 1980, U2 released a debut album, "Boy," with a memorable album cover photo featuring a six-year-old boy staring directly at the camera. Three years later, the same figure reappeared on the cover of "War." The child (who has since been featured on many of U2's albums) is Peter Rowen. Rowen, now a 37-year-old photographer with a daughter of his own, lives in Dublin, Ireland, and still stays in touch with Bono and The Edge.

Several years ago, the band gave him a copy of a photo they took for an album cover and wrote messages to him on the back. "Bono wrote, 'Stay a child. I am enjoying it.' It was good advice," says Rowen, who landed on the album covers because he grew up in Ireland near Bono.

[Photo gallery: See more rare U2 photos ]

"Bono lived across the road and was friends with my brother," says Rowen, whose brother actually gave Bono (real name Paul David Hewson) the nickname that stayed with him for the rest of his life. "I don't know why they thought of me."

Peter Rowen

Peter Rowen

Rowen debuted on the cover of U2's first EP album, "Three," when he was 5 years old, and he was only 8 when "War" was photographed.

The band was there for the "War" shoot, and Rowen says he has two memories of the day. The first was disliking the soup that was served by the photographer's wife, but being too shy to say something.

"And the other memory is that Bono was driving us back from Dun Laoighaire, Ireland [where the photo was taken]. He was talking to someone in the backseat and someone shouted to watch out for a car. Two memories from the day: I didn't like the soup, and I was nearly in a crash."

Rowen was then featured on the band's "best of" album, and he appeared in one of the U2 videos. As an adult, he's had a complete role reversal. Two years ago, he photographed the band's Dublin concert, and has since gone on to photograph other performances. Rowen saw U2 two months ago for a Montreal show.

U2's album cover for "War" (L) and an unpublished outtake (R)

U2's album cover for "War" (L) and an unpublished outtake (R)

"It is funny that I'm a photographer now," Rowen said, and the arc came full circle when U2 used one of the photos he took for a T-shirt and a poster. He also connected unexpectedly with one of the photographers of the album covers while he was on assignment. "A guy started talking to me about my camera and said he used to be a photographer and his most famous picture was 'War.' I said 'that was me!' He's a judge now."

These days, Rowen says he rarely gets recognized. "But when people find out, sometimes they say my eyes are still the same."

Click here to see some of the photos Rowen has taken over the years.

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