City Pulse

By Ashley Goldsmith

Rock & Roll was never just about the music. Whether it’s the pelvic thrusting of Elvis, the sex appeal of Madonna or the androgyny of Grace Jones and David Bowie, the face of rock & roll has been carved by images of the genres greats.

Enter the Brooklyn Museums latest photographic exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History. A maze of breathtaking images from 1955 to present including Anton Corbijn’s famous shoot of U2 for their Joshua Treem album, Bob Gtuen’s portrait of John Lennon in a sleeveless New York City tee and Amy Winehouse on her wedding day.

Organized into six sections the exhibit showcases images taken behind the scenes (including a touching photo of Kurt Cobain after a performance in Seattle, 1990); snapshots of young musicians at the beginning of their careers (The Beatles in 1960 when they were the Silver Beatles, sans Ringo with Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe); photos of live performances displaying the energy of the bands on stage (a nine-by-seven foot tour-de-force of a 2001 Maonna performance; images of the crowds and fans (fans ripping up a t-shirt at a Morrisey concert); portraits that go beyond the surface and celebrity of the musicians and conceptual images and album covers highlighting the creative and collaborative efforts between the image makers and the subjects.

The exhibition also includes music videos like David Bowie’s Life on Mars, a rock & roll chronology made from actual album covers (starting with Elvis and ending with Justin Timberlake) and an 80-image slide show by Henry Filtz featuring a young Michael Jackson.

My favorite image of the exhibit is a candid photo by Allan Tannenbaum of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed at a studio, a mere two weeks before his death. Lennon’s response to the photo, “I love how you capture Yoko’s beauty.”

The exhibit is most definitely worth the trip to Brooklyn for a perspective into the history of the music that makes you want to put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

What: Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present
When: On view October 30th through January 31st 2010
Where: Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, 718.638.5000,

Visit for a copy of the fully illustrated book titled Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History

Originally published October 2009
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