Two exhibits opening in Memphis on Friday showcase the work of mother-daughter, father-daughter pairs.
The upcoming exhibit at Harrington Brown Gallery is “Cross Pollination” — a reference to the influence and inspiration passed between Paula Temple and her daughter, Ariel Baron-Robbins. “They both have completely different styles, but they complement each other,” says gallery owner, Rose Harrington Brown.
Gail Buckland is both the author of the book and guest curator of the exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History 1955 to the Present, opening at the Brooks Museum tomorrow, Saturday, June 26th. Buckland is a veteran photographic historian, curator, author, and professor, and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the upcoming exhibit. In addition to the exhibit opening party for members this evening, there will be a curator talk open to the public at 2 p.m. on Saturday followed by a book signing.
Why music photography in particular?
I’ve been around long enough to know that at different times, different genres are embraced into the larger history of photography. There was a time when fashion photography was not considered art, and museums would never show it. Then all of a sudden maybe 10 or 15 years ago you started seeing museums doing fashion exhibitions and having serious discussions about its importance. I go far enough back that I remember when Richard Avedon was not exhibiting in museums because he was considered a commercial photographer.
All of that is a preface to say that I recognized that there are brilliant, important photographs of musicians and of the entire musical revolution that we know of as rock and roll. Most of the attention has always been on the people who make the music. Not incorrectly— we should celebrate those people. But I felt the time had come that the people who gave rock its image also need to be acknowledged.
How do you define the relationship between rock and roll and photography?
The revolution that we know of as rock and roll was a bipartite revolution. It was sound and image. The music alone could not create the revolution. The kids were reacting to the clothes and the hairstyles and the body language. And the people who gave rock its image are very important because revolutions have to be documented to be believed. It’s the photographers who were bringing back the message that kids were going wild in mosh pits in Seattle. It was like photographing the front line and sometimes you came back with your battle scars. But especially for young people, it’s so important that there are people out there thinking like them and looking like them and loving the same music, so the image of rock is really important.
What was the relationship like between the musicians and photographers?
A lot of the photographers when they picked up their cameras they were every bit as passionate taking the photographs as any guitarist plucking his strings. This is a burning passion in them and they often felt that when they were shooting they were almost playing along with the music. This is the opposite of paparazzi. There are no stolen images in my shows. Most of these photographs were taken in collaboration and with mutual respect—no exploitation. A lot of the photographers stopped photographing when they started to be controlled by the labels — when the hair stylists and the people with clothes and the PR people became more important than just the musician and the photographer interacting and trying to do something together. It wasn’t fun anymore. What was fun was creative artists working together to come up with something.
What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit.