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Bob Gruen: Rock Seen

Photo by Bob Gruen

Exhibition preview

BOB Gruen, the legendary US photographer who made his name documenting the New York music scene of the late 1970s, is set to show a large and definitive exhibition of his work at London’s Londonewcastle Project Space.

Entitled Rock Seen, the exhibition includes previously unseen images and footage of Mick Jagger, Johnny Rotten, Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali, among many others, and is on display from October 5 to October 27, 2014.

Rock Seen is a major exhibition of the rock stars that hung around CBGB and Max’s Kansas City in the 1970’s from Debbie Harry to David Bowie.

From being John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal photographer to accompanying the Sex Pistols on their ill-fated American tour, to befriending Andy Warhol, Bob Gruen was an essential part of the crowd, as well as one of its most important documenters.

The exhibition also includes unseen documentaries, an installation of a teenager’s bedroom in New York in 1978, a stage for impromptu performances – including one-off sessions of famous bands – and an evening of poets each of whom will read a poem inspired by one of the pictures.

Rock Seen is part of the LDNY Festival and is curated by Stephen Colegrave, author of Inside Music and co-author of Punk.

For forty years, Bob Gruen has been documenting the rock scene, capturing now iconic images of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, New York Dolls, Blondie, The Ramones, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono among others and continues to work today with current acts Green Day and the Strypes. Gruen says of his career, “Photography has led me to some great experiences and enduring relationships. Blurring the line between work and play, many of the people I met through my work have become friends; some are like family to me.”

Bob Gruen’s career began in 1965, when he shot his first concert photos at the Newport Folk Festival. “I was still a kid and a big Bob Dylan fan.” Gruen recalls, “I talked my way into getting a photo pass so I could be down front. That was when Dylan played electric guitar and claimed rock ‘n’ roll was American folk music and got booed off stage for it. After that I began taking photos a lot.” (Bob Gruen, Interview with Carlo McCormick, The New York Trash).

While shooting freelance work and photo stories for the underground rock magazine, Rock Scene Gruen photographed local New York City bands “on stage, off stage, at home, at parties, and during time off”.

“Many photos I was taking then weren’t used until years later; they weren’t considered to be news at the times, but now they are ‘history’”, Gruen says of his early photographs which document the very beginnings of what would later become a monumental rock scene at the now infamous New York City clubs CBGB and Max’s Kansas City where bands such as the Ramones and Blondie got their start.

Many of Bob Gruen’s iconic photographs began with unassuming introductions that became the catalyst for honest and enduring friendships. A hurried introduction to Ike and Tina Turner outside a concert began a friendship that resulted in Gruen’s first album cover, and later Gruen’s first concert tour. In 1972, Gruen met John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a benefit concert, and later dropped some prints at their nearby apartment. This simple gesture began a close friendship between Bob Gruen, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono.

Throughout the 1970’s Gruen worked as their personal photographer, documenting concerts and press conferences, as well as capturing serene moments between John and Yoko, and the first images of their son, Sean Lennon. In 1974, Gruen suggested photographing John Lennon on top of his New York apartment building, which would later become the hugely iconic image of John Lennon wearing the New York City T-Shirt.

Bob Gruen lives and works in New York City.

Opening hours: Daily from 11am to 8pm.

Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DP