It’s not easy to capture someone’s complex personality in one simple photograph. That’s something I’ve come to learn in taking amateur portrait photographs.
So it came as a real treat to me that the Annenberg Space for Photography was hosting a show dedicated to the photographers who caught the musical and intimate personality of some of the biggest figures in music history from Elvis Presley to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present” grouped together some of the biggest music icons captured by photographers like Lynn Goldsmith, Ed Colver, Mark Seliger and more.
On the last few nights of the exhibition, the Space extended its hours to midnight, so on Saturday night, I stood in an unexpectedly long line to catch glimpses of the intriguing photographs and some of the accompanying documentary.
The show included up-close portraits, live show shots, album art and more and amidst it all I felt most captured by the photos that really showcased the musician’s identity offstage.
Elvis Whispers Softly especially impressed me because it showed the stud away from the microphone, caught in an intimate interaction with an anonymous woman. It was to hard believe Elvis was so young in that shot, because the photo indicates someone much older, much experienced. The photo also let viewers hold onto a piece of history –those born before The King died, like me, can only watch recordings of Elvis’ performances to understand his power, but this photograph preserves an important facet of his personality that didn’t come out onstage. The same goes for a portrait of Tupac Shakur which shows the outspoken, rough-and-tough rapper looking somewhat vulnerable.
By the end of the show, I felt more in tune and in touch with many major artists, as well as inspired to pick up my own camera. The Annenberg Space for Photography will be closed through November 17 for the set-up of its next show “No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World.”