ePHOTOzine asked me to parachute in, last minute and cover the Rockarchive's Greatest Pix exhibition currently on-show at the pop-up gallery at 199 Bishopsgate, London. The event, which included a film titled: 'who shot rock and roll' (no, that's not a typo, there is no question mark...so rock and roll), followed by a Q&A with 2 rock photographers and the author of the book of the same name, was all rather rock and roll. A bit like Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood at the Brits. Now if you don't know who they are, you probably won't have heard of most of the bands either.
Just like the best rock and roll gigs, we had mics which gave up, speakers which buzzed and enough feedback to keep Jimi Hendrix happy. But what I found really confusing was that I didn't know what I was buying. Was I there to buy a film, a book or a camera? Was it rockarchive selling prints or a gallery?
So I have tried to cover all the bases here. Firstly, the film. 35 minutes of photographers talking about their photos inter-spliced with footage of bands performing and the resulting photos. Generally it seemed to follow a pattern of lucky break, getting to know band, becoming mates with band, going on tour with band, getting some great shots.
I really enjoyed it, part of the fascination is thinking 'wow, how cool'. Part of it is due to thinking - that could have been me. I mean, how difficult can it be to get a great shot of Mick Jagger or David Bowie?
The book is like a who's who of rock photography, lots of photographers each having just one page to represent their work. I would probably have preferred less photographers and more photos. But it is a great reference book. If you see a photographer you like, you could explore further, a great starting point to explore on Google.
is a website formed by Jill Furmanovsky a well-known Rock photographer. Jill led the Q&A along with fellow music photographer David Corio and Gail Buckland - author of the book.
Jill recounted how she had shot Pink Floyd when she was just 19, which started her on the road as a rock photographer. You can buy prints off the website, including some of hers. There was a selection hanging around the gallery. I particularly liked one of Charlie Watts, a huge close up taken from the side. I thought yep, I'd like that on my wall, until I saw the price - over £11,000.
I do think that limited edition Rock and Roll prints could be a good investment. Firstly they look fantastic and secondly there’s lots of people out there with money trying to relive their youth, just look at Porsche and motorbike sales. The great advantage over say a dry, old portfolio of shares, is that you can enjoy a print and get a return (prices can go down as well as up).
One thing that struck me about the film, the book and the prints, did rock and roll die about 25 years ago? Perhaps the film / book should have been called Who shot rock and roll up to 1989... I know that doesn't scan so well. It does explain the audience many of whom were quite well preserved, balding pony tails and stacked heels, but luckily no spandex.
I did start wondering who are the current bands that will end up in coffee table books (if they still exist) in forty years time. One Direction? I don’t think so. Slim pickings all round. I could see Miley Cyrus in mid-twerk though - that's my investment tip (I'm not registered with the FSA).
Olympus were sponsoring the event and the pop up gallery. No one actually spoke for them, but there was a woman in an Olympus t-shirt wandering around and leaflets plugging the OM-D sprinkled about (is it just me who keeps reading that as OMG!? Yeah, thought so).
Also fashion and fetish photographer Damian McGillicuddy
was there, who told me that he had taken over from David Bailey as Olympus principal photographer. On the Olympus website he says 'I am more than happy to have secured my position as one of the UK's best photographers by accruing 673 international awards'. That's an impressive amount of awards, must be hard to keep track.
While I was waiting for the film to start, I got chatting to Gerard McNamara
who has taken photos of Adam Ant and Blondie, amongst others. He told me he started out by buying tickets to gigs and eventually worked his way up to the coveted AAA (Access All Areas) pass. He told me it is much harder to get access to bands now, there is PR, management and security in the way. And if you do get a pass, artists are much fussier about what they allow to be released.
So what did I get from the evening? I could see myself buying a piece of iconic rock and roll history. Maybe that was the message all along. Now I've just gotta decide which one. Am I Beatles or Stones? I'd probably go with the Stones, it's only rock and roll but I like it.
Article by Martin Jordan.