Rock and Roll Photos | Rock and Roll Photography

Rock Photography Origins

Rock and roll has had a significant impact on society, music, fashion, and culture. Rock and roll photography is one of the most iconic forms of documenting this genre's history. Photographers like Robert Whitaker or Brian Duffy captured some of the most iconic images in rock and roll history.  This article will provide an overview of rock photography as well as profile some of the photographers (showcased at Proud Galleries, our photography gallery London) who helped shape this genre over time.

One of the major factors helping the momentum of the tide of change in the 60’s was the change in photography, it allowed people to see the world in a way that was never possible before.

Numerous exhibitions have been coming out over the years documenting the history of photography and its importance in how it represents moments in time, and ongoing change.

Everything Was Moving - Photography from the 60’s and 70’s’ was an exhibition at the Barbican - ‘The world changed dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s, it was the defining period of the modern age. It was also the moment when the medium flowered as a modern art form’.

Siobhan Andrews' writing on the event sums it up. (1)

“Prior to what is now often referred to as the Golden Age of Photography, many photographers worked predominantly for the illustrated press, having to comply with strict briefs and commissions, with little room for artistic interpretation. However as the 60s and 70s progressed, many photographers began working independently to document their own, unique surroundings, and were able to 'see' the world on their own terms, whilst also establishing their own viewpoint and stance within it. Through this renewed approach to their practice, these photographers in turn challenged the common belief that the medium of photography was inferior to those of painting or sculpture, and thus established it as an artistic medium in its own right.

Photographic historian Gail Buckland has written a book called ‘Who shot rock and roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present’ (2

Claire O’Neill reviewed the book in Nation Geographic - ‘the book is one of the first to tell the story of rock 'n' roll with an emphasis on those who fashioned its image. What would rock be without that photo of the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, or of Elton John doing a handstand on his piano? Photography didn't create rock, but it certainly helped create our vision of it.

Sky Arts TV channel aired a six episode mini series called "ICON: Music Through The Lens’ produced by Cinefromage & Eagle Rock Films, each episode “examines an individual facet of the genre in detail from life on the road, the evolution of the album cover, the acceptance of music photography as fine art, the impact of the digital revolution and more.” (3)

Gered Mankowitz, photographer, series curator and executive producer says, Icon: Music Through The Lens is an important moment for music photography providing context, focus and understanding of the impact it has made on popular music over many decades. Being able to talk in real depth to such a wide range of amazing photographers and to hear their experiences and insights has been an incredible privilege and I am very proud that we have now captured the definitive story of their amazing work and contribution.”

Rocking and Rolling - Behind the Camera

The leading photographers at the time have been featured in exhibitions or on permanent exhibition in our gallery here at Proud. We take a look at some of the most popular and their images.

Brian Duffy

In 2013 Duffy was voted as one of the topmost 100 influential photographers of all time and he richly deserves that title. When Duffy felt he had pushed the boundaries as far as he could and was no longer satisfied with stills photography he abruptly shut his studio, attempted to burn all of his negatives and moved into commercials. (4

Amongst the photographs that have captured Bowie, Brian Duffy captured some the most recognisable and legendary images of the artist. The lightning bolt of Aladdin Sane album cover, is one the most recognisable images of pop and rock music ever and now referred to to as ‘The Mona Lisa of Pop’.  The images where captured by Duffy in London 1973, it marks the conspiring of two of the greatest artists combining to produce an image that has become a totem in its own right.

Brian Aris

Brian Aris began his photographic career as a photojournalist, working for a London agency. Over the next nine years a series of frontline assignments took him around the world. He then decided on a complete change of direction and opened a studio in London where he started photographing fashion and glamour models for newspapers and magazines. At the same time he gradually broadened his studio work to include pop and rock stars such as Blondie, The Jam, The Clash, The Boomtown Rats, Roxy Music and The Police. And after three years he turned away from the model world to concentrate on the music industry that was exploding in Britain. (5)

One of best Aris photos we have here at Proud was of ‘Blondie, Debbie Harry, ’New York Apartment’ with Portrait by Andy Warhol’ shot in New York 1988. Three artists in one, Aris, Harry and Warhol, as stand out images go this is up there.


Michael Brennen

Michael Brennan is a photographer who has captured the lives and moments of many people in history. Hes won various awards for his work, including the British News Picture Of The Year for his coverage of the death of Donald Campbell in 1967. He has worked for several newspapers and covered important events, winning British Photographer of the Year in 1970. His work includes several pop culture icons, such as Led Zeppelin, the Bee-Gees, and others. His images have appeared in multiple papers and magazines globally: The New York Times, Sunday Times, Life, Rolling Stone, Sports illustrated. He is now retired and living in Costa Rica.

Proud Galleries have works by Michael Brennen on display in the down stairs gallery at the London gallery WC2N 6BP.


Amongst all his work some of his stand out pieces where of the band Led Zeppelin. Proud owner and Zeppelin fan Alex Proud gave a short video interview concerning one of the best shots of the band on their private plane The Starship. And let’s face it: nothing says rock stardom than a fireplace on a Boeing 707.

Adrian Boot

Adrian Boot was on the front line of beginning of the birth of reggae, he started his career not as a photographer but as a teacher of physics. He was born in 1947, went to university for as long as possible and then headed to Jamaica in 1970 to teach. Photography for him was a hobby, something hat he didn’t necessarily take too seriously he said “Dont forget, for a long time I just considered it to be a sabbatical. I thought that sooner or later Id have to go back to teaching or get a proper job. I guess it was that that helped me through – the fact I didnt really care gave me a bit of a cavalier approach. If Id taken it too seriously, I wouldnt have done what I did.”

Boots was able to catch the subject as though he was part of the group, what was going on at the time, many have tried to copy this style but often the photos feels lacking or staged. Boots said “'its not just spontaneity' and having a camera to hand at the right time and the right place: 'I record people and events – they already exist and if Im lucky my presence doesnt intrude too much'”.

The image ‘Chilling and Guitar’ at Proud Galleries is a classic example of this ability to be there at that moment, just capturing the inhalation, a spiritual moment for Bob, and a lasting image, one that seems to carry Marley's message of One world One love, much like Boots’ famous image that graces the cover of Bob Marleys best selling album Legend.

Adrian Boot's career never turned back to to teaching. He went on to work as a freelance photographer, he filled the pages of NME, The Times, Guardian and was staff photographer for Melody Maker. He has captured some of the most iconic moments in music history, he documented the punk movement in the UK and the US, covered Live Aid, The Wall by Roger Waters, and the famous concerts at the pyramids by The Grateful Dead, Zeppelin, Jagger, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Steel Pulse, Tom Petty, Geldof and the list goes on. A quick trip to his webpage/blog and you get the idea.

Proud Galleries hosted an exhibition ’40 years of Punk’ in 2017 showcasing much of his work, and he continues to capture images from around the world particularly in Asia - moments of positivity on this planet which often seem so far away. 

Eric Swayne

Eric Swayne (1932 - 2007) started photography when he was 29, he was friends with the cream of photography, he formed an early friendship with Brian Duffy and met Bailey and Donovan. This was 1960’s London and things where happening that had never happened before, and Swayne recognised it. It was exciting, and the opportunity to pursue a life long passion was on the table.

Swayne was meeting everyone that there was to meet, and he started to capture images of the circles of people he was friends with, his north London studio was frequented by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Mary Quant.

He didn’t have any formal training - his style was informal and open - and it helped him to catch the person in the moment, amidst the unique culture background that was developing in 1960’s London.

Swayne created an impressive body of work over his career: he shot for Italian Vogue, Queen and Vanity Fair, but some of his amazing images were his friends, his ring side seat of the 60’s, from his north London studio allowed him to capture the movers and the shakers just as they became brilliant, as legends were being born. Heres a well-known fact: when Pattie Boyd met George Harrison of the Beatles on set of a Hard Days Night, she was going out with Eric.

After Swayne died sadly in 2007, his son found photos his father had captured but had been unreleased. Tom Swayne wrote: Some of the sweetest images showed my fathers great loves - of which, being the Sixties, there were many. The portraits of Pattie Boyd, one of his big romances before she left him in 1964 for George Harrison, tugged at my heartstrings. But at least shed created a space for my mother, Shirley Ann; herself a Vogue model. (6)

Norman Seeff

Norman Seeff was born 1939 and is world-renowned photographer who has studied the creative process and human creativity, with a core belief that we all can access the source of creativity in our own consciousness. He has worked for major labels in advertising including Apple and General Motors as well as pop artist and artists alike, names like Warhol, The Band, Blondie, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. Norman’s image of Ray Charles is something to be seen.


Markus Klinko

Markus Klinko’s photographic studies have captured many artists; Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kim Kardashian, Naomi Campbell, and Iman.

Proud Galleries are now set to host their next exhibition featuring Bowie captured by Markus Klinko. The date is to be announced and will be featured at Proud’s Gallery in London located at WC2N 6BP. Klinko said “He is one of the most photogenic stars ever, and almost every single shot looked incredible. Bowie knew exactly what poses and expressions to do in order to portray the character we discussed”. (7)

'Klinko spent his early years training to become a classical harp soloist. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris. After a hand injury, Klinko decided to become a fashion photographer and retired from his international concert and recording career. From there, he went on to create some of the most iconic album covers of his time, including Beyonce's Dangerously in Love, and Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi.' (8)

David Stetson

David Stetson was born in the East End of London 1953. He worked in Beauty, Fashion and Portraits for many the leading tabloids and magazines in the late 70’s. He moved to New York and before leaving completed a post graduate course in film making. He went on to receive high acclaim for his work with capturing portraits of global stars, such as Sophia Loren, Alfred Hitchcock & HRH Princess Diana. His work has been exhibited many times and taken on my private collections for percent exhibition. Several of his favourites here at Proud: his monochrome image of Tina Turner live on stage captures her gazing out in to the audience, her trademark ‘best legs in rock and roll’ loosely covered by her split costume. (Read: Tina Turner photos)

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker Robert Whitaker photographed the Beatles, Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, and wars from Vietnam to the Middle East. He aimed his camera up Salvador Dalis nostrils in search of a surrealist effect. His pictures were displayed at Britains National Portrait Gallery. There were about 100 key movers and shakers in the 60s and I was lucky enough to photograph most of them. Of course, my photographs of the Beatles have overshadowed everything else, but thats OK,” said Bob Whitaker. (9)

Whitaker captured many of the iconic images used on single and album covers during the Beatles explosively successful early period of the swinging 60s. A quick trip to Whittaker's website is one down memory lane for any fan. Notably, what was shot as a conceptual art piece, became a notorious album cover in the US and withdrawn by Capitol Records following complaints, but now is considered on of the rarest record covers of all times, The Butcher cover for the Yesterday and Today album. Whitaker remarked ‘Coming after Lennon declared the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, dismembered dolls and meat offended many’. If you find an original in your grandparents' cupboard, be sure to put it in a safe deposit box: a sealed stereo Butcher cover sold for $75,000 in 2015.

Michael Grecco

Michael Grecco is an award-winning photographer, author and is also the director of a critically acclaimed documentary called Naked Ambition. He started as a hard newspaper photographer and then went into magazines. He has worked with some of the biggest names around: Martin Scorsese, Hugh Hefner, Robert Duvall, Lucy Liu, Will Ferrell, Mel Brooks, Christina Applegate, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Jet Li, Bill Murray, Joaquin Phoenix and Rene Russo.

His book, and subsequent documentary, Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry looks to celebrate the people in the American porn industry. His previous written works also include: The Art of Portrait Photography, Creative Lighting Techniques and Strategies, and Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait, the Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography.

Michael Grecco was ideally situated to document the punk scene that came out of Boston, United States. In an interview with Rob Walker for the The Guardian, Grecco details his first exposure: ‘Hed turned up on a whim, he recalls, figuring a band named after an Albert Camus novel might possibly be interesting. Then the guitar and drums kicked in, and the lead singer launched into a deafening number called Better Off Dead... After that first punk experience, he immersed himself in clubs such as New Yorks CBGB, wrangling a job as a photographer, initially with a music fanzine called Boston Rock and shooting the bands and protagonists, including Dead Kennedys, Ramones and Human Sexual Response.’ (10)

Other notable prints here at Proud cover The Clash, The Plasmatics, Human League amongst other great bands of the time.

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