From April 13 to May 26, an exhibit called the ROCKERS will be on display in the Westphal Colle ge of Media Arts & Design’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery showcasing 124 photographs taken by famous American rock photographer, Bob Gruen.
The exhibit includes 65 contact sheets, a handful of both black and white as well as color photos and a “Teenage Bedroom” display.
Gruen was in attendance on the opening night of the gallery and he was back at the Pearlstein Gallery May 3 for a book signing and a discussion about his career with music journalist, Rona Elliot.
Bob Gruen was a music photographer for more than 40 years and acted as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal photographer and close friend, according to his website.
“Bob understood what we were doing. He was interested in photographing John as he was, whether the photos would one day sell or not,” Ono once said of Gruen.
In the 1970s, Gruen was the chief photographer for Rock Scene Magazine and worked with some of the most recognizable names in the rock and roll world, including Elton John, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, The Who, and Ramones.
“Bob Gruen was a part of the entire rock scene, as much as any band, really, because he was one of those guys that everybody really liked and he always seemed to get the money shot,” Alice Cooper said in the film “Rock ‘N’ Roll Exposed.”
Gruen has written a number of books and his work has been displayed in galleries across the globe. Some of his photographs are featured in the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
Very few of Gruen’s pictures are of actual performances or concerts. Instead, Gruen specializes in capturing intimate moments of band members.
“Rock-and-roll bands are like families: groups of dysfunctional people trying to get along. It’s about learning how to catch the moment when they all looked comfortable with one another,” Gruen told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Gruen’s behind the scenes style is represented in the collection on display at the Pearlstein gallery. One such candid photo shows the Sex Pistols having fun together at a diner in Luxenburg in 1977 and another shows Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious traveling the same year.
Gruen toured with many bands, but some of the most frequently shown artists in the gallery were the Ramones, John Lennon (the Beatles), Joe Strummer (Clash) and Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols).
Aside from the photographs and contact sheets, there was a set-up called the “Teenage Bedroom” which was a room staged as Gruen would imagine a teenage girl’s bedroom would be during the era when he took photographs. There was a messy bed, a pair of Doc Martins, a desk full of school notebooks and a radio playing. On the wall of the room were posters, magazines and pictures, all of which displayed Gruen’s work.
An entertainment and arts management and art history sophomore at Drexel University, Caroline Phelps, said that her favorite part of the exhibit was a photo that showed Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali from 1973.
“I like it because I’m into art history,” Phelps said.
In the photo, Salvador Dali is holding a brain over Alice Cooper who is wearing just a crown and a necklace. Phelps explained that she liked to see the mixture of icons from two different fields, art history and rock ‘n’ roll.
The exhibition, located on 34th and Filbert streets, is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.