SEE Who Shot Rock & Roll

Written by

Mick Jagger, Philadelphia, 1982 – Collection of Michael Putland

From KCRW Drive Director and art lover Laura Shumate:

Mick Jagger, Philadelphia, 1982 – Collection of Michael Putland

The exhibits at the Annenberg Space for Photography are always stunning. Curators mine slides and negatives for images that move onlookers right into the focus of a photographer’s camera.

Originally shown and created by the Brooklyn Museum with curator Gail Buckland, “Who Shot Rock & Roll” is the Annenberg’s current exhibit, uniting iconic rock imagery with the Annenberg’s trustworthy selections of high caliber photography. With “Who Shot Rock & Roll”, the music becomes a visceral moment again, alive and in front of us.

A collection of 166 prints from over 100 masters of rock photography, the Annenberg cites their West Coast show as, “the first major museum exhibit on rock and roll to spotlight the creative and collaborative role that photographers have played in the history of rock music.”

These are the photographers who have documented the rise of stars from unknown nebula to spinning galaxies that decorate the universe. They have captured the most intimate images from the most fantastic perspectives. Without these shots, we would not love rock and roll the way we are compelled to love it. They shoot the sweat, the thighs, the ecstasy and the beauty. They capture “the moment” over and over again and again and it is these “moments” that are splayed throughout the show and across the Annenberg’s gallery walls.

Portraiture, live shots, album covers and the fans are on view. A small list of a few credentials range from Bob Gruen, the personal photographer of John and Yoko; Henry Diltz, official photographer of Woodstock and Monterey festivals; Lynn Goldsmith, who toured with The Pretenders, shot ‘70s era Patti Smith and loved photographing Michael Jackson “because he moved so much.”

John and Yoko in Bed, New York, November 21, 1980 – Courtesy of Allan
Tannenbaum, from “John and Yoko: A New York Love Story” (c) Allan
Tannenbaum

There is Ed Colver, who documented the L.A. punk scene and Roberta Bayley, who toured with the Sex Pistols and Blondie and was the chief photographer in the late ‘70s of “Punk” magazine – as well as David LaChapelle, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Kern and so many more. It begins where the power of rock imagery began, at the dangerous pout of Elvis Presley. It then moves to the fist in mirror self-destruction of Henry Rollins to a magnificent stadium triumph of Madonna – a high-gloss, massive fantasy image that must be viewed in person.

At the center of the exhibit is the 36-minute Steven

The Cramps, CBGB, New York City, December 10, 1993 – Courtesy of Ebet Roberts

Kochones’ documentary that plays on an endless loop throughout the show. It has been produced specifically for the amenities of the Annenberg gallery, projected in 4K high-resolution on their custom 7.1 channel audio system to create a satiating live experience for viewers. It reveals the intimate relationship between the performer and the photographer over a range of interviews, probably most heartfelt from Mary McCartney, Paul and Linda’s daughter, as she discusses her mother’s role in the history of the genre while delicately giving mention to their family too. The film is a live-action element that reignites the work of the exhibit.  The show is not experienced in full without a viewing of the documentary.

Who Shot Rock & Roll” is on view now through October 7th. There are accompanying Iris Nights Lectures, where photographers will discuss their work. KCRW DJ Henry Rollins will speak on Thursday, July 19.

KCRW is also hosting a series of live music nights in July featuring performances from Moby, Portugal. The Man, Raphael Saadiq and Band of Skulls alongside KCRW DJs. The Annenberg Foundation aims to create a space where the community can unite and celebrate art together. Both these concerts and the exhibit itself are part of their mission to support the arts. RSVP to attend the shows here.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars and is free to the public. Easy and affordable self-parking is also available in the underground garage.

— Laura Shumate