Backstage Pass


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Rock & Roll Photography

Edited by Thomas Denenberg; Essays by Greil Marcus, Anne Wilkes Tucker, Laura Levine, Glenn O'Brien, and Kate Simon

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This striking collection of photographs features nearly every important figure in the world of rock & roll, from Elvis to Eric Clapton, the Beatles to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix to John Coltrane. Many of the nearly one hundred images have rarely been published, and all reveal fascinating glimpses of celebrities off stage, away from the glare of the spotlights. Shot from the mid-fifties to the mid-nineties, the portraits often have a spontaneous, informal, and everyday feel, and most record their subjects before they had become immensely famous—and well practiced in posing for photographs. The more than fifty photographers who contribute to the volume are among the most talented in their field, including Lee Friedlander, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Mick Rock, and many more.


Three original essays address topics suggested by the photographs. The authors discuss the coded nature of celebrity portraiture, the 1970s music scene in New York City, the frank sexuality of rock musicians, and how the Beatles’ look evolved over time. This book will be treasured not only by fans of rock & roll music and admirers of photographic portraits, but also by those who remember the vanished time when photographers had genuine access to performers, and were a crucial element in the worlds they were documenting.

Glenn O’Brien is a writer and journalist. Anne Wilkes Tucker is Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and author of The History of Japanese Photography (Yale). Laura Levine is a photographer whose work has appeared in Rolling StoneNew York Rocker, and Sounds of the UK. Thomas Andrew Denenberg is the Acting Director and Chief Curator at the Portland Museum of Art. Kate Simon is a photographer whose work has appeared on book jackets, record covers, and in publications around the world. Greil Marcus is an author, music journalist, and cultural critic whose writings have appeared in Rolling Stone, Artforum, the Village Voice, and Creem.


Portland Museum of Art, Maine (January 22 – March 22, 2009)


“…this collection of 50 years of striking and insightful rock’n’roll photography…generally captures musicians in quiet, often unguarded moments.” - The Independent on Sunday

Backstage Pass possesses a compelling intimacy … [It] captures neatly every icon from the history of rock’n’roll. But unlike so many rock photographs, these rare images also address the commodity of cool … and the written contributions […] harbour the same warmth and enthusiasm as each engaging image…” - MH, Dazed and Confused

Backstage Pass with its excellent reproductions would appeal not only to fans and those interested in portrait photography, but also to those interested in fashion and social history. This author’s favourite photograph? A young, grinning Rod Stewart in striped flannel pyjamas.’

Selected as one of the 2009 "Books of note about music," Dan DeLuca, Music Critic,The Philadelphia Inquirer
ISBN: 9780300151633
Publication Date: February 24, 2009
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Portland Museum of Art
128 pages, 9 3/4 x 11
61 b/w + 27 color illus.
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