San Francisco, 1967.
It was a charming April day when the stars aligned and photo-journalist Baron Wolman met a young freelance writer named Jann Wenner. Wenner had plans to start a new periodicle with music writer Ralph Gleason, and they were in need of a Chief Of Photography, a role that Wolman accepted. The new periodicle was named – after Muddy Waters’ “Rollin Stone”, Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”, and The Rolling Stones – Rolling Stone.
By the time Wolman joined Rolling Stone he was 30-years-old and already an established freelance photographer; having began his career in the early 60’s when he was stationed in Berlin with the military, and working his way to shoot for high profile magazines such as Life.
Wolman’s photographs were used in the very first issue of Rolling Stone in 1967, and he continued to shoot for the magazine for the next three years. His subjects during this time included Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, the Who, Iggy Pop, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Phil Spector, The Grateful Dead, and the list goes on.
After his time at Rolling Stone, Wolman created his own magazine called Rags; a fashion based venture focusing on culture and couture.
After that… he focused on aviation photography.
And after that… he started his own publishing house.
So you could imagine my delight when I heard Mr. Wolman was coming to my town…
Baron came to Toronto on May 7 to not only showcase his book, Forever Young: Groupies and Other Electric Ladies, but to also present his photography exhibit of the same name.
The book signing was held at the Drake Hotel. I had to be there. And because I wasn’t sure what to expect, I took along my friend Paddy Jane (who just happens to be deep in the photography game herself).
The day started off with a brief introduction to Baron – breaking the ice with our mutual knowledge of his once-upon-a-time photography muse and my writing workshop mentor, Pamela Des Barres (Miss P) – followed by an impromptu Q&A with Marlie Centawer (a fellow Miss P doll), as pictured above.
Baron was sweet, incredibly charming, and completely in his element when surrounded by rock n’ roll women and cameras.
During the Q&A, he told his stories to us with such a dynamic presence that I couldn’t peel my eyes away from him for a second.
Hello Baron, it’s me – the unblinking creeper right in the front row.
He told us about what it was like to live in Haight Ashbury during its hippie hay-day, how Jimi Hendrix got those silver loops on his hat, and how access had everything to do with his success. I yearn to be a part of the era he spoke so fondly of. A time when photographers had so much of that aforementioned access and would often be on stage with bands in order to get their “money shot”, as if they were an extra member. When not every single man, woman, and child with a smartphone fancied themselves a photographer.
Today, music photographers get a media pass at concerts. They stand in the space between the stage and the pit, and then get roughly a three song limit to photograph the band before they’re pushed out. Getting a money shot is hard to do when you have five other photographers taking more or less the same photo.
Speaking of money shots, Baron cites his as this one of Jimi Hendrix, taken at the Fillmore West in 1968.
After the book signing, Q&A and subsequent photoshoot at the Drake, we meandered over to Charlotte Hale Gallery in Mirvish Village, where Baron’s photographs were on exhibit.
The event listing read that the event is “for musicians, fashionistas, photographers, and hippies.”
My kinda people.
Shortly after arriving, a man in his 70’s who was slightly hard of hearing with a great bushy beard and deep brown eyes came up to talk to me. “Nice pants you have there.” Motioning to my extra wide flare bell bottoms. “Can you name three other terms for bellbottoms that were used back in the day?”
Cue calling my jeans ‘Elephant Pants’ without self deprecating intent for the rest of eternity.
After I ended that very passionate conversation, another man in his 70’s approached.
This one had dark round glasses, a swanky suit, and a top hat. We discussed how we both knew of Baron’s work, and how photography has evolved over the decades. I told him all about my amateur photography endeavours – the type of camera I use, my lens, and lenses I wished I had. I blabbed on about how I just started learning about aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds. He listened so intently while I talked him up about all of this before he mentioned to me that he knew a little about photography too – in fact he used to be a big time celebrity photographer before he retired. OH and that Ingrid Bergman was his favorite subject.
I must be so amusing.
The Forever Young: Groupies and Other Electric Ladies exhibit is on until May 31st. You’ll want to catch this one.
Photo’s courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marliecentawer/with/26331167064/