Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History at the Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia, SC – Who Shot Rock & Roll is the first major exhibition on rock and roll to put photographers in the foreground, acknowledging their creative and collaborative role in the history of rock music. The exhibition includes 175 works by more than 100 photographers, and covers the rock and roll era from the 1950s to the present, including some of the world’s most iconic images.

The exhibition opens to the public at the Columbia Museum of Art on Friday, February 25 – a free admission day, courtesy of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina – and runs through May 22, 2011. It was organized by the prestigious Brooklyn Museum of Art and opened there to rave reviews and record-breaking attendance. Columbia is the last stop on the nation-wide traveling tour.

New York Times reviewer, Ken Johnson wrote, “…to study images of Elvis Presley, Madonna and others when they were starting out is to marvel at the youth of those who created the huge global industry of today’s pop music.”

This is the first exhibition to address the story of rock and roll as told from the perspective of the people who chronicled its development and defined it through visual imagery. Who Shot Rock & Roll is about the men and women who photographed one of the most important cultural revolutions ever, rock and roll. Some of the major photographers represented in the show are David LaChapelle, Mark Seliger, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz and Bob Gruen. The photographers’ images communicate the social and cultural transformations that rock has fostered since the1950s.

The exhibition is in six sections and includes video installations as well: rare and revealing images taken behind the scenes; tender snapshots of young musicians at the beginnings of their careers; exhilarating photographs of live performances that display the energy, passion, style and sex appeal of the band on stage; powerful images of the crowds and fans that are often evocative of historic paintings; portraits revealing the soul and creativity, rather than the surface and celebrity, of the musicians; and conceptual images and album covers highlighting the collaborative efforts between the image makers and the musicians.

The music of the era needed images to communicate its message of rebellion, freedom, and personal reinvention – these photographs and others like them, were the hard evidence that rock was transforming the world. By exploring this intersection of rock and roll and great photography, Who Shot Rock and Roll is an antidote to the slick, packaged visual products of the music industry, and instead presents photographs of depth, raw power, tenderness and brilliance.

Image: Henry Diltz (American, b. 1938). Tina Turner, Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles (detail), October 1985. Chromogenic print. © Henry Diltz

The Columbia Museum of Art is South Carolina’s premier international art museum and houses a world-class collection of European and American art. Founded in 1950, the Museum opened its new building on Main Street in 1998 with 25 galleries. The collection includes masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, porcelain and works by significant furniture and silver makers, as well as American, Asian, and modern and contemporary art. In recent years the Museum’s collection of Asian art and Antiquities has grown through generous gifts to the collection. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity, Claude Monet’s The Seine at Giverny, Canaletto’s View of the Molo, and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The Museum’s newly commissioned Chihuly chandelier is now on view in the Museum’s David Wallace Robinson, Jr. Atrium. The Museum offers changing exhibitions from renowned museums as well as educational programs for all ages that include art classes, art camps, lectures, films and concerts. It is the recipient of a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education and an Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Generous support to the Museum is provided by the City of Columbia, Richland County, the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties.


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