Who Shot Rock

January 18, 2011

Alfred Wertheimer, Elvis Whispers Softly, 1956, Gelatin silver print.

Who Shot Rock and Roll is the first major exhibition on rock and roll to put photographers in the foreground, acknowledging their creative and collaborative role in the history of rock music. The exhibition includes 175 works by more than 100 photographers, and covers the rock and roll era from the 1950s to the present, including some of the world’s most iconic images. The exhibition runs from February 25 through May 22, 2011. It was organized by the prestigious Brooklyn Museum of Art and opened there to rave reviews and record-breaking attendance. Columbia is the last stop on the nation-wide traveling tour.

Jerry Schatzberg, Frank Zappa, “Himself”; printed 2009, Chromogenic print.

This is the first exhibition to address the story of rock and roll as told from the perspective of the people who chronicled its development and defined it through visual imagery. Who Shot Rock and Roll is about the men and women who photographed one of the most important cultural revolutions ever: rock and roll. Some of the major photographers represented in the show are David LaChapelle, Mark Seliger, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Bob Gruen. The photographers’ images communicate the social and cultural transformations that rock has fostered since the 1950s.

Ian Dickson, The Ramones, 1977, Silver gelatin print.

Henry Diltz, Tina Turner, taken 1985, printed June 2009, digital print from 35 mm transparency.

The exhibition is in six sections and includes video installations as well: rare and revealing images taken behind the scenes; tender snapshots of young musicians at the beginnings of their careers; exhilarating photographs of live performances that display the energy, passion, style, and sex appeal of the band on stage; powerful images of the crowds and fans that are often evocative of historic paintings; portraits revealing the soul and creativity, rather than the surface and celebrity, of the musicians; and conceptual images and album covers highlighting the collaborative efforts between the image makers and the musicians.

Barry Feinstein, Fans Looking in Limousine, London, taken 1966, printed 2009, Gelatin silver print.

The music of the era needed images to communicate its message of rebellion, freedom, and personal reinvention – these photographs and others like them, were the hard evidence that rock was transforming the world. By exploring this intersection of rock and roll and great photography, Who Shot Rock and Roll is an antidote to the slick, packaged visual products of the music industry, and instead presents photographs of depth, raw power, tenderness and brilliance.

Michael Putland, Mick Jagger, taken 1982, printed 1990s, Gelatin silver print.

This exhibition was organized and circulated by the Brooklyn Museum, with guest curator Gail Buckland.

All photographs were provided by the Columbia Museum of Art.

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