In 1967, photojournalist Baron Wolman was already 30 and living in San Francisco when he caught the explosion of music and counterculture that defined the hippie generation. Asked by his 21-year-old friend Jann Wenner if he would help launch a new magazine, Wolman became the first staff photographer for Rolling Stone, capturing many of the images that are still emblazoned in our minds from those very first issues. In this PhotoSynthesis feature, Wolman tells the stories behind 25 of his iconic pictures. Collectively, they form the narrative of how rock 'n' roll became ... rock 'n' roll.
Baron Wolman, Retna
Baron Wolman is most famous for capturing many of the images of rock 'n' roll and the surrounding culture during its innocent (and not-so-innocent) beginnings in San Francisco in the mid-'60s. As chief photographer for Rolling Stone from its very first issue in 1967 for three years following, Wolman shot cover after cover -- images that persist to the present and which will be seen for generations to come. Prior to that, he got his start as a photojournalist in West Berlin where he was stationed with the military. Upon his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, then to San Francisco.
Following his stint with Rolling Stone, Wolman launched a fashion magazine called Rags, which showcased day-to-day street fashion instead of runway fashion. That emphasis was indicative of Wolman's preferred style as a photographer -- he rarely set a photo up, insisting instead on capturing moments as they occurred naturally. His portraits, therefore, were true renderings -- people caught in moments. Those moments just happened, sometimes, to be exceptional.
Wolman has gone on to release numerous photo books, including several of aerial photography, and in 1974 he spent an entire season documenting the Oakland Raiders football team for 'Oakland Raiders: The Good Guys.' He has spent the better part of the past decade in Santa Fe, N.M., and currently offers both his prints and books through his official website.
Johnny Cash, 1967: I was backstage with him and I was really puzzled by how little joy there was. He was very serious in the entire series of pictures that I took of him. The very fact that he said it was OK to be back there was an honor and a gift, but when I looked at the pictures afterwards ... We all knew, subsequently, all the troubles that were going on in his mind, whether it was drinking, drugs, whatever it happened to be. And when I look at this, I see that all reflected. Now, the thing is, I was worried, because this was before the concert. I looked at him and I wondered how was he going to go out and put on a good show of any kind. But he did -- he went out and he put on a great show.
This print I had up in an exhibit in 2007 in New York at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. I was at the opening and this woman came up to me and she said she really liked that picture of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. And I said, "Well, Johnny Cash, for sure. Where's June Carter Cash?" And she said, "Well take a look to the left of his face." And that's who it is, reflected in the mirror! The reason I know that's who it is, is because in the performance photos that followed, that's what she was wearing. But from 1967 when I took that photo, to 2007 when somebody pointed out that she was there, I had never seen her.
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