Capture by A photoblog


Rock On Up: 'Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 - Present'

by Jonathan Ganley

The Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 - Present exhibition opens at the Auckland Art Gallery on Saturday November 10. With 173 photographs and a handsome accompanying book, the show was curated by Gail Buckland and arrives here (for the first time outside the United States) from the Brooklyn Museum.

With the high quality of subjects and photographers on offer it's hard to know where to begin, but feel free to start with the preview samples posted below. I'll be checking out some favourites. A high quality silver gelatin or chromogenic print directly from the negative or transparency is visually as good as it gets. Can't wait to see the solemn Ian Curtis, framed by Kevin Cummins in a Manchester rehearsal room around the time of Unknown Pleasures. Or REM, when they were still enigmatic, captured sitting at the counter of Walter's Bar-B-Que in Athens, Georgia by Laura Levine. Check out John Lydon, all amphetamine attitude onstage, beautifully shot by Pistols confidante Dennis Morris. There is also the 'greatest rock n roll photograph of all time' - Pennie Smith's 1979 photo of Paul Simonon smashing his bass onstage that appeared on the cover of London Calling.

For someone like myself, who once spent a lot of time gazing at her book The Clash: Before and After this is exciting stuff, but Pennie Smith herself doesn't buy into the myth. In this fascinating 2003 interview she dismissed the whole idea of 'rock photography', while emphasising her self-taught technique, and claiming modestly that she doesn't see herself as a photographer, but rather as "someone who takes photographs".

 " … I don’t know modern technology, I know what works for me, with my sort of bashed up old equipment … I don’t use a flash, and I quite like wondering if I can make it with the lights that are there, and stopping the action in time. If it’s not dangerous – I don’t like it! There are no rock photographers, most rock photography bores the pants off me, particularly the modern stuff where it’s studio-orientated, glossy passport photos, no, don’t like …"

Rock on up.

Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 - Present  opens at Auckland Art Gallery on Saturday November 10 2012 and finishes on Sunday March 3 2013. Ticket information and prices (including detail of the early bird special) can be found here. There will be a program of events, talks, late nights with music, and movie screenings over the summer. See the event page here for more details.

The photographs below are reproduced by kind permission of Auckland Art Gallery.

(Our double pass giveaway has been given away to Gary, who was first in ...)

Elvis Whispers Softly, 1956. Gelatin silver print. Photo: © Alfred Werthheimer, The Wertheimer Collection

Jimi Hendrix and Wilson Pickett, Prelude Club, Atlantic Records release party May 5, 1966. Chromogenic print. Photo: © Collection of William "PoPsie" Randolph; Courtesy of Michael Randolph, Executor to the Estate of William "PoPsie" Randolph

Frank Zappa, "Himself", 1967 (printed 2009). Chromogenic print. Courtesy of Jerry Schatzberg. Photo: © Jerry Schatzberg

The Ramones at Eric’s Club, Liverpool, England, May 1977. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of Ian Dickson @ Photo: © Ian Dickson

Bow Wow Wow, 1981. Inkjet print. Photo by Andy Earl. Photo: © Andy Earl

Mosh Pit at Endfest, Kitsap County, Washington, 1991. Inkjet print. Photo: © Charles Peterson

L.L.Cool J, 1992. Inkjet print. Private collection. Photo: © Albert Watson

The Cramps, CBGBs, New York City, December 10, 1993. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of Ebet Roberts. Photo: © Ebet Roberts

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hamburg, Germany, 1992. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of Ian Dickson @ Photo: © Ian Dickson

Courtney Love, San Fernando Valley, California December 1993. Dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid). Collection of Shawn Mortensen Archive. Photo: © Shawn Mortensen