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Rock and Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen





This one falls under docs you may have missed – but shouldn’t. Many know the name Bob Gruen. Others – who are into rock and roll, or music for that matter, should. He’s the guy who was there. Gruen has captured a zillion iconic rock group images; on and off stage.

And this was back when cameras still required a lot of knowledge and preferably an eye behind the lens. Bob Gruen began shooting his scene which happened to be NYC bars that had live music – during the “early years” when glimmer, folk, punk and rock were all clamoring for the microphone.

As many a fantastical fable goes…Bob found himself wandering down a lovely path of circumstances, towards safety pin attached off-shoots and meandering right smack into a few of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. All the while, snapping tangible images of these magical theatrical beings in their element; little moments of the occasions to share with the mere mortals he later walked among as the day would dawn...

The documentary has Gruen, and many others you’ll be tickled to hear and see, talk about the story behind the picture of folks like Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Sex Pistols and so forth. It is not unlike say pure uncut heroin style educating if you’re an inspiring photographer. There is more than a coupla fantastic tips or two – even if today anyone can aim and click – Gruen's work is emotional human art that brings you in and there.

True, Gruen has many famous people populating his images - people born to be in pictures as they say. The most recognizable is probably John Lennon in a New York tee, arms folded, skyline set behind him; the lad’s new home, as Nixon and the FBI attempted to boot him.

However, being of a certain age, I’d gotten all the magazines Gruen took images for by hopping upon a train to Newberry Street and a handing over allowance coins for the visual glee. His images were always more than just adorable rebel-fueled guys and wild chickbabes on a stage. As one interviewee said, “It was before internet” - ad that it was also how music fiends discovered new groups or followed their beloved. The Rolling Stone cover of Keith Moon in top hat…and the Clash on the roof poster. Both Gruen. Who knew? Well, me…but, you get the drift.

Gruen is still out-all-night snapping groups that he likes (now White Stripes and Green Day for example). Here, along with the history of Gruen, you’ll watch rock and roll shape via images and commentary. The film is really a must view for anyone into the art of capturing moments upon film. Not poses so much – though certainly a few are planned – but that certain literal snapshot of life as it was happening. The film is about 30 minutes too long - you may be eyeing exit signs - but give the guy his due.

Buy Gruen Stuff! Lennon, Clash, Keef etc etc.


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