Rock Photography

Sometimes I think that in another life, I’d want to be a rock journalist. I’ve seen Almost Famous too many times to count. I tell myself, what a great way to experience the lifestyle from an intellectual point of view, to be able to make it all even more meaningful. Study them, feel their angst, their raw magnetism, and then analyze it on paper. But then I think, screw that: I want to be the lead singer, man. Not some nerd whose dream is it to be the girl who scribbles notes about the lead singer. Their lives are art, their music is their soul- they don’t need it decoded and picked apart so some elitist magazine and their advertisers can make a few bucks.

But I identify more as writer, and not a musician, something I apparently haven’t yet come to terms with.

Oh, I tried to be a musician: Viola, piano, and some sad attempts at guitar lessons from my dad (I still stand by the fact that I would need a child’s size guitar because of my child-size hands.) I guess I can sing, but prefer not to do so in public. But music is in my blood. I come from a musical family. And besides falling asleep to The Beatles’ records every night, one of the first ways I became fascinated with rock music was through cover art. It was probably my future art history nerd coming through; my freakish ability for rote memorization, but at a very early age, my parents discovered that I could, quite enjoyably, memorize the names of bands based on the record covers. My earliest favorite cover was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. So much of The Beatles’ art and music is so child-friendly, so they were a great launching point for me into that world. But apparently, at age two or three, I’d go through the stacks and stacks of records we owned (like the one below, so appropriate for children) and say, “Rolling Stones,” “Donovan,” “The Kinks.” I mean, I guess that’s why people have kids, right? To delight parents in whatever odd ways their future adult interests (or obsessions, or afflictions, or whatever) manifest themselves.


Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones

Uh, where was I? Yeah, album cover art. I am still pretty obsessed with rock photography. Dream job: photo archivist at rock and roll hall of fame (especially if it wasn’t in Cleveland.)

For vintage (to modern) rock photography, the Brooklyn Museum is exhibiting “Who Shot Rock & Roll, a Photographic History, 1955 to the Present,” This photo is one of my favorites, as featured in New York Entertainment.


Bob Dylan with Kids, Liverpool, England, 1966, by Barry Feinstein

So iconic, so sixties, so clearly Dylan, even from the back. It’s a surprising shot, an American musician abroad in the land of The Beatles.

But you don’t have to be a professional photographer to capture amazing musical moments. The most stunning recent example of amateur rock photography (and also, concert videography) I’ve seen comes from Bon Iver’s sunrise show in L.A.


Bon Iver sunrise show, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 9/28/09

The concert was timed to coincide with nature’s backdrop- the light gradually shifting, the colors changing from indigo to violet, to pinkish orange to clear morning light, contrasting with the tall, unmoving Hollywood palms. And then, through all of this, you have the wonderful sounds of Bon Iver. I know it’s, like, oh my gah, so totally trendy to be a fan of theirs right now, and I’m just waiting for the inevitable backlash against them for having such a following. Even so, they are definitely one of the top bands of the last few years for me. (And Justin Vernon is a Sconnie!)* The concert was described as “magical” and “meaningful” by attendees. There are some concerts just hit you in a place no writer could describe, and there’s something wonderful about that. You just have to be there, although a photo probably does a better job of capturing the beauty than a written review would. I wish I could have gone, but maybe he’ll do a sunrise show back in his home state (although we’d have to wait a good 6 months for bearable temperatures.)

*Sconnie, slang for someone from Wisconsin, is one of those terms that started out as derogatory, but was re-appropriated and embraced by the targeted group to instill a sense of empowerment. That, or it’s just kinda funny.

Happy Friday!


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