This Q & A is a personal treat for me because I love photography and how it captures the moment… I was fortunate to work at Rhino Records where the importance of great photo’s in CD booklets was understood and appreciated.
I married a photographer and I’ve got a couple good pals that dabble in the art as well. So I reached out to Baron Wolman to see if he’d like to participate in my ongoing Rockonomics Q & A series. Baron Wolman is a real America Treasure who’s captured some of the greatest musicians ever – bar none.
Q: You’re known as one of the quintessential Rock Photographers. You’ve photographed everyone from the Grateful Dead to Muddy Waters. Is there a fun story you’d like to share that leads up to one of your photographs?
A: Filled with great apprehension I went to Miles Davis’ home just west of Central Park in New York City to shoot him for a Rolling Stone article. I had heard he was a difficult subject and didn’t like photographers, especially white ones. Long story short, we got along well. After we made some portraits in his living room, he growled, “Baron, you are so out of shape. Let’s go to the gym; I gotta get you in the ring.” We headed to the famous Gleason’s Gym in his red Ferrari. Along the way I had him pull over and made some color portraits of him with his car. At the gym I photographed him training where he worked out hard and regularly, three times a week. Miles was in great physical shape and loved to box. He subsequently explained to me that his music was like boxing; if you listen closely you will hear all the major boxing moves: jab, uppercut, cross, hook, et cetera. And, no, he didn’t put me in the ring with him.
Q: You once said that is was real hard to get a bad picture of Jimi Hendrix. Can you tell me a little more about what you mean by that and what he was like?
A: Jimi had incredible style. He dressed so well. His clothes even influenced the late sixties changes in Miles Davis’ wardrobe. And he had “performance style.” His movements onstage, his handling and caressing of his guitar, his facial expressions — all were unique, all were visually exciting, all were hugely photogenic.
Q: Because you were a staff photographer for Rolling Stone and constantly shooting different bands, I understand it would’ve been hard to join a tour and focus on a particular band. If you could’ve joined a tour what tour, which one?
A: Any of the Stones tours must have been extraordinarily exciting and would have been fun with a capital “F.” I loved the Who; it would have been great to hang with that band. Same with Led Zeppelin. I’ve recently become friendly with Jimmy Page – had I been on tour with them I could compare the Jimmy of the sixties to the Jimmy of today. Believe it or not, I would have liked to accompany AC/DC, a popular but until recently “disrespected” band – what a rock and roll power rush.
Q: What artist living or dead would you like to photograph?
A: The list is long, endless really, and includes some artists I briefly photographed before their demise. More Jimi, more Janis, more Jim Morrison, more Frank Zappa. I’ve recently come to admire Joan Jett – I’d love to shoot her. Tom Petty. Bob Marley. John Mellencamp. More Dylan. I could go on and on and on. My extensive archives notwithstanding, I regret that I didn’t fully take advantage of the some of the photo opportunities I had. Down deep I fear I’m lazy, prone to indolence…
Q: There’s a rumor that you might have another book coming out with stories and photos. Can you tell me more about it?
A: It’s no rumor. In the spring of 2011 the book will be published. The title is “Every Picture Tells A Story — Baron Wolman, The Rolling Stone Years.” When I hang photo exhibits and when I make live presentations, people always ask me what it was like to shoot so-and-so, what it was like to live in the Haight during the Summer of Love, what Woodstock was like, what it like to be alive in the sixties. The book will provide some of the answers as well as stories behind particular pictures. And, of course, there will be lots of photos, many never before published. For all of us shooters, old or young, tales told about the photo sessions are enormously captivating and give the images an additional presence.
Q: Do you have any great photo’s that you’ve not been allowed to publish?
A: No. Nor would I publish a photo that would demean the subject or hurt the subject in any way. Jim Marshall, the great rock & roll shooter, titled his recent book “Trust” because he explained that between him and his subjects there existed an inherent trust that neither would abuse the other, that he would respect the privilege of being invited into the lives of his subjects. I couldn’t say it any better.