Laura Levine
'Who Shot Rock' Opening
posted: November 2, 2009
Whenever you get a bunch of photographers in a room together, eventually they're going to start shooting each other. It's just our way. We may have elbowed each other in the photo pit now and then in the past in order to get the best shot of whoever was performing onstage, but there's a great love and history and camraderie among us. Probably not too different from soldiers who served in the trenches together. If you think about it, there aren't too many of us.

So it was a great thrill to attend the opening of Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, the exhibition curated by photo historian Gail Buckland at the Brooklyn Museum the other night. Not just to see our work on the walls, and to hear Blondie perform in the Great Hall, but to have a chance to see each other again. As well as - for me, at least - to meet some of the legendary names I'd heard of for years but had never met.

Probably the biggest kick for me personally was to meet Al Wertheimer, the man who took what is in my opinion the best rock & roll photo ever. You know the one....Elvis Tongue Kissing the Girl on the Stairwell. Al told me that he'd had mere seconds to grab that shot of Presley and his fan in the dark fire stairs behind the stage. That image is so raw, and so perfect on so many levels. I just love it.

One of my favorite moments was catching Al Wertheimer and Daniel Kramer taking photos of each other. (Kramer took those iconic photos of Bob Dylan when he was at his most beautiful, in my opinion). And then, while I was shooting them shooting each other, photographer Danny Clinch started to shoot them as well, so I shot Danny shooting Dan shooting Al. This is what happens when there are no rock stars in the room - we become the portrait subjects for the night. We probably drove the museum guards crazy, as taking photographs inside the exhibition was verboten, but we weren't going to let a few rules stop us.

It was great to see my friends and colleagues Lynn Goldsmith, Ebet Roberts, Bob Gruen, Julia Gorton, Stephanie Chernikowski, and to spot Godlis, Roberta Bayley, and Marcia Resnick. I was so happy to meet Bob Seideman (who did THAT Blind Faith album cover), and to see Allen Tannenbaum, who, when he was photo editor of the Soho Weekly News back in the mid-70s, hired me for my very first professional photo assignment when I was sixteen (of a Leslie West/Mountain concert). I'm sure I missed a ton of peple I would've loved to have seen or met.

I was honored not only to have my work included in this exibition, but to be hanging in the same exhibit as Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus. (Arbus's work is what inspired me to become a photographer, when I was fourteen).

The reception was great fun - hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, beer and wine. Blondie (Debbie Harry in a jet black flapper pin curl wig) were amazing. The Great Hall was packed. Thousands of people standing among art and antiquities as Blondie rocked the house. My friend Chris Stein of Blondie had two of my favorite pieces in the show, crazy fumetti he did with John Holstrom for PUNK magazine.

The show runs through January 31, 2010 and then goes to four other museum after Brooklyn. I know I'll be going back for another visit, as there was so much to take in.

(By the way, in conjunction with their inclusion in the show, I'm offering archival pigment ink prints of my Bjork and R.E.M. images at a special celebratory price through the holidays - click here for more info.)
My eight year-old cousin Anna was THE rockstar of the evening. When the invitation says "rock & roll attire encouraged," she does NOT mess around!...
My dear friend Lisa Cortes checks out some of my work. The curator of the show tried to include as many vintage prints as possible, so she chose this 8 x 10 personal print that was hanging on my wall - one that Bjork had signed to me - as opposed to a larger "gallery" print....
Legendary Presley photographer Al Wertheimer gives my photo of R.E.M. at Walter's Bar-B-Que his seal of approval!...
Al Wertheimer shot by Daniel Kramer shot by Danny Clinch shot by Laura Levine....
I was so happy to see my good friend Lynn Goldsmith, and we celebrated the fact that our pages in the book are across from each other....
Lynn has this crazy-ass Camera-Extendo-Arm on her camera so was able to shoot self-portraits of us.
This photo doesn't even start to depict how packed it was....
This comes closer. Somewhere up there onstage is Blondie....
Me and my friend Bob Gruen in front of a partial contact sheet of his famous John Lennon portrait. One of the most interesting things about the exhibit was the behind-the-scenes stories of the photographs. For example, Bob shot four rolls of Lennon that day but two rolls were lost. The famous image of Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo walking down Thompson Street by Don Hunstein? The original slide has long disappeared....
Proof that my work is on the same wall as Richard Avedon's! (My Bjork is far left, his Beatles are far right)....
Dear old dad!...
Me outside the Brooklyn Museum....
Victor Juhasz November 2, 2009
Alllright! Congrats. There's actually something weirdly comforting about reading that the original slides or rolls of film of some of these great shoots have been lost to the ephemera. Sort of like fame, fortune, ourselves.
Yuko November 2, 2009
Congrats Laura! FANTASTIC!! It is amazing that you have achieved to all the way in two completely different fields of visual arts. Congrats again!
Hanoch Piven November 2, 2009
hey congratulations Laura! You look so happy! my word below: ROCKWISH (!!!)
Robert Saunders November 2, 2009
I noticed this show got a lot of publicity, and great shows how much we worship the whole phenomenon of rock and roll.
mollyr November 2, 2009
I can't stand that I missed it BUT it looks like a wonderful show and the party... clearly a good time was had by all! Will get to the museum before it closes.
Calef Brown November 2, 2009
Congrats Laura! i'm sorry I missed it, but am glad i got to see some of your great work at the Portland show.
Dina November 2, 2009
Rock 'n roll 4 eva!
mike huff November 2, 2009
Looking good Laura!
Doug Fraser November 2, 2009
WOW! very impressive. Congratulations. Nice to see your work in such a setting.
laura t. November 2, 2009
how cool! i'm so sorry i missed it, looks like you had a fab time tho :)
David Flaherty November 2, 2009
Very cool Laura! Must have been a great night!
Cathie Bleck November 2, 2009
Laura Levine looks divine, amongst her best were all the rest who swung their shots with lusty cameras and trusty staminas!! I am so proud to know ya...and to own the Bjork photo-all time favorite. Now we can say it hung in a ton of musuems! I am going to your show next Friday, can't wait!! big hugs to you my friend... Cathie
Tim OBrien November 2, 2009
Congrats on a great night and high honor.
Rob Dunlavey November 3, 2009
Laura, you up the cool quotient here in Drawgerville 10x. Congratulations!
Hal Mayforth November 3, 2009
Congratulations, Laura. You're hanging with the giants!
Leo Espinosa November 3, 2009
My sincere congratulations, Laura. Besides being a killer iller you are a great photographer BUT you already knew that :)
Cathleen Toelke November 3, 2009
Rock and Roll! That is so big time! Congratulations, Laura. The show, the opening, and you, look fabulous.
Zina November 3, 2009
Congratulations, Laura -- it looks like a great show.
Laura Levine November 3, 2009
Thanks everyone!
Walter Vasconcelos November 3, 2009
Congratulations Laura! Looks great!
marcellus hall January 17, 2010
very cool, laura.