Greil Marcus, the legendary music writer and cultural thinker (with whom Chris Gray had an interesting e-mail correspondence) showed up in Portland Monday to give the Bernard A. Osher annual lecture for the Portland Museum of Art. He based his talk on the museum's show "Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography," which is up through March 22. The 250+ images in the show are selected from a private collection of more than 500 photos of rock stars - most of which were taken behind the scenes, rather than on stage.
But from his jumping-off point of the images in the show, Marcus quickly broadened his scope to images that were not included in the show, as evidence partly of what the collector himself choosing to leave out, but also to demonstrate a larger point about the cultural position of photography of musicians. What Marcus himself left out of his talk was the explicit statement that a great deal of today's photography of musicians is about stolen moments - or bizarre documentation of largely meaningless moments (like Britney's flash or Katie Holmes's various hairstyles).
Rather, by showing and discussing images whose photographers and subjects imbued the moment with lasting power, Marcus's talk was both a celebration of the cultivated permanence of the rock-and-roll era and a lament for its passing.
-- Jeff Inglis
LISTEN: Greil Marcus at Portland Museum of Art (mp3)
Photos are after the jump.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1974, by Kate Simon
Elvis Presley, 1956, by Albert Wetheimer
John Coltrane, 1960, by William Claxton
Edith Piaf, 1960, by Emil Cadoo
The Rolling Stones, 1961, by Philip Townsend
Dusty Springfield, 1965
Tony Bennett, 1958, by William Claxton
Andrew Loog Oldham (one-time manager of the Rolling Stones), 1963, by Phillip Townsend
The Grateful Dead, 1965, by Herb Green
Bob Dylan, 1965, by Barry Feinstein
Sinead O'Connor, 1989, Laura Levine
Chuck Berry, 1964