Jill Furmanovsky and Rockarchive
 

Photofusion and Rockarchive have collaborated to create this timeline of portraits of David Bowie, Silhouettes and Shadows. From an innocent boy playing in front of a small crowd to the Starman we all know. Joe Faulkner spoke to the founder of Rockarchive, Jill Furmanovsky, who is a prolific rock photographer in her own right.



Joe Faulkner: How did you find yourself with the opportunity to photograph these people?

Jill Furmanovsky: I presume you mean the rock and roll musicians?! As a student in the early 1970s I worked at The Rainbow Theatre in London taking live shots directly for the theatre. There I photographed concerts by the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, The Faces etc and could also photograph some rehearsals, which meant I met a few of the musicians face to face. This led to a few commissions and gradually I began also to work for the music press on features.

Joe: Who was the most interesting to capture?

Jill: Well all of it was interesting – some for the challenge to capture fast moving action like James Brown or Van Halen, some for the challenge to capture the mood of the music like Yes or Pink Floyd. When I started shooting portraits first on the road and then in the studio I liked the ‘difficult’ subjects best – like the punks and then later, Oasis.

Joe: Which is your favorite way of documenting these artist?

Jill: I still love shooting live images, as that is pure meditation  – providing, of course, I can shoot the whole show and not just 3 songs! The studio is the hardest for me, but I rise to the challenge of being an entertainer and working with a team, which is often the case in a studio shoot. Documentary work is the core of my attitude to shooting as I was brought up on Cartier-Bresson and Magnum. Put it this way, I like it all and I’m still learning.

Joe: What do you think gives the viewer the bigger insight to the subject?

Jill: Probably an off-guard portrait of some kind shot in the street – the stuff the paparazzi’s shoot, but that is one thing I don’t do!

Joe: Your images give an insight into the person as opposed to the star, how is that created?

Jill: If that is so I have succeeded! How it's done is by stealth and bluff and above all trust.


Joe: Why do you feel it's important to document these people?

Jill: The era I photographed I think of as the Rock and Roll Era and those who invented it and were important in it, like Elvis, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols etc. They are like, for example, Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Van Gogh were to the Impressionist Era. They are the founders. As such they inspired the next generation/era to do great work – in essence creative work that reflects the time they live in. The way I see it, there are still people making Impressionist paintings and playing rock music, but they are now operating in the Digital Era. The innovators in that field will be very interesting characters and produce their own wondrous works…

Joe: Now thinking of rockarchive.com what lead to its creation, what is its mission statement and how successful do you believe it has been?

Jill: Rockarchive’s greatest achievement is having survived. Like Magnum, which inspired its creation, we’ve had some wobbly times financially. Rockarchive was one of the first in the field to recognise the value of Rock and Roll prints as, if not ‘art’, which is too confusing a word, certainly more valuable than just ‘snaps’ by ‘snappers’! If Rockarchive have a mission statement it is to preserve a hugely rich cultural history, much of it unique to the UK, and to honour ‘the art of’ rock music and photography. If I was offered lunch with the current Minister of Culture I would be bending her ear to say Rockarchive should be given a public space in London for a permanent collection to be funded by the Lottery Heritage fund. What else is it for!?

The David Bowie, Silhouettes and Shadows exhibition is on at PhotoFusion, 17A Electric Lane London Brixton SW9 8LA until the 25th of October. 

Photofusion and Rockarchive have collaborated to create this timeline of portraits of David Bowie, Silhouettes and Shadows. From an innocent boy playing in front of a small crowd to the Starman we all know. Joe Faulkner spoke to the founder of Rockarchive, Jill Furmanovsky, who is a prolific rock photographer in her own right.

Joe Faulkner: How did you find yourself with the opportunity to photograph these people?

Jill Furmanovsky: I presume you mean the rock and roll musicians?! As a student in the early 1970s I worked at The Rainbow Theatre in London taking live shots directly for the theatre. There I photographed concerts by the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, The Faces etc and could also photograph some rehearsals, which meant I met a few of the musicians face to face. This led to a few commissions and gradually I began also to work for the music press on features.

Joe: Who was the most interesting to capture?

Jill: Well all of it was interesting – some for the challenge to capture fast moving action like James Brown or Van Halen, some for the challenge to capture the mood of the music like Yes or Pink Floyd. When I started shooting portraits first on the road and then in the studio I liked the ‘difficult’ subjects best – like the punks and then later, Oasis.

Joe: Which is your favorite way of documenting these artist?

Jill: I still love shooting live images, as that is pure meditation  – providing, of course, I can shoot the whole show and not just 3 songs! The studio is the hardest for me, but I rise to the challenge of being an entertainer and working with a team, which is often the case in a studio shoot. Documentary work is the core of my attitude to shooting as I was brought up on Cartier-Bresson and Magnum. Put it this way, I like it all and I’m still learning.



Joe: What do you think gives the viewer the bigger insight to the subject?

Jill: Probably an off-guard portrait of some kind shot in the street – the stuff the paparazzi’s shoot, but that is one thing I don’t do!

Joe: Your images give an insight into the person as opposed to the star, how is that created?

Jill: If that is so I have succeeded! How it's done is by stealth and bluff and above all trust.

Joe: Why do you feel it's important to document these people?

Jill: The era I photographed I think of as the Rock and Roll Era and those who invented it and were important in it, like Elvis, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols etc. They are like, for example, Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Van Gogh were to the Impressionist Era. They are the founders. As such they inspired the next generation/era to do great work – in essence creative work that reflects the time they live in. The way I see it, there are still people making Impressionist paintings and playing rock music, but they are now operating in the Digital Era. The innovators in that field will be very interesting characters and produce their own wondrous works…

Joe: Now thinking of rockarchive.com what lead to its creation, what is its mission statement and how successful do you believe it has been?

Jill: Rockarchive’s greatest achievement is having survived. Like Magnum, which inspired its creation, we’ve had some wobbly times financially. Rockarchive was one of the first in the field to recognise the value of Rock and Roll prints as, if not ‘art’, which is too confusing a word, certainly more valuable than just ‘snaps’ by ‘snappers’! If Rockarchive have a mission statement it is to preserve a hugely rich cultural history, much of it unique to the UK, and to honour ‘the art of’ rock music and photography. If I was offered lunch with the current Minister of Culture I would be bending her ear to say Rockarchive should be given a public space in London for a permanent collection to be funded by the Lottery Heritage fund. What else is it for!?

The David Bowie, Silhouettes and Shadows exhibition is on at PhotoFusion, 17A Electric Lane London Brixton SW9 8LA until the 25th of October. 


— Joe Faulkner
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