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That’s how it was... The seventies. Hectic, exciting, creative. Constantly reinventing itself, full of self-confidence. Sometimes tiresome, but never for long. What I’m saying is nothing new. Many have said it before me in different words, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I know, because I was there. As a photographer mainly, but also as a restless young man and a music lover. Back then, the rock scene was not quite the well-oiled machine it is today. Things still had to be invented: light installations, sound, promotion, organization, crowd control. This also applied to music journalism. How do you capture music, describe it? And equally important, how do you photograph it? Every single day, people were learning things and adapting them. It was a time of experimentation. The first Dutch rock music magazine, ‘Oor’, developed in tandem with rock music, from its early days and with increasing pace. The journalists and photographers were talented, of course, but what made them special was the ability to work with a lack of inhibition, an openness that wasn’t limited by marketing concepts and sales pitches. Almost every week, new groups were being discovered or there were other pieces of hot news. We tried to capture that, as much and as extensively as we could. And not only in the Netherlands. If groups were put to the test on a Dutch stage (which happened quite often), then of course we were there too. But we also went abroad a lot. Sometimes we went to England two weeks before a planned performance in the Netherlands, to have the photos and articles ready for the group’s Dutch tour. We were catapulted from one (music) world to another. You could say that it was Abba one day and Zappa the next. We saw The Eagles in London, Paul McCartney in the south of France, Bob Dylan in New York and the Stones in Hamburg. We visited London every two months. It was the most natural thing in the world back then, and looking back now, it was a fantastic time. My own development as a photographer essentially ran parallel to developments in the music scene. Commissioned by my guru Philip Mechanicus, I held a photo session in 1969 with a Dutch group, the Outsiders, with Wally Tax. It was to be my first published photo. Being self-taught, I developed into a professional with my own studio. I travelled frequently and came face to face with the music icons of that period. My photos can be divided into four categories: concert photos, studio photos, portraits and photos made at press conferences. The concert photos were taken under conditions that would be inconceivable today. Photographers were allowed to work for the entire duration of a concert, not only during the first three songs, as is the case nowadays. The portraits were sometimes taken in the studio, but usually during interviews (I often worked with music journalist Pim Oets). An interview was not a question of working for ten minutes and then resorting to the press kit; it was a ‘conversation’ that could take up an entire afternoon,

and in such cases I was present the whole time (and if necessary, I would make myself ‘invisible’ by sitting under the table). When I look at the collection now, I think the portraits are the most distinctive. Back then, rock stars were not yet the largerthan-life icons they are today. Now they’ve honed their image down to the last detail. They’re so well-trained in that respect, they almost automatically adopt that stereotypical attitude or that characteristic gaze when they suspect that there is a camera nearby. This was hardly the case in the early seventies. Of course the stars had personality, but they did not have that iconic status yet. Lots of laughing, cheerful portraits of self-declared loner Neil Young. Mick Jagger, who took my camera to photograph me. The über-ghoul Alice Cooper, who joked around with the hotel maids. Roxy Music going overboard during one of their group portraits, that were usually so carefully orchestrated. Brian Ferry, nodding off in an armchair. And lots more. You got so close to the musicians that you could catch their more subtle remarks or see them sad or emotional. Bonnie Raitt, John Entwhistle, John Fogerty and many others, they all revealed the human being behind the musician. And to capture that human being, that was exactly my aim. During concerts, I was always planning to take the best picture ever. ‘After this gig, everyone is free to try take a better picture, but for now this is going to be the best one ...’ Pretty ambitious, but I actually managed to do it a few times, especially during performances where the artists pushed themselves to the limit. If you take pictures at three concerts a week, you know within five minutes whether the musicians are motivated or just trying to get through the gig. If they played out of this world, I took pictures that were out of this world. I was exhausted after those kinds of concerts. There were many. Concerts by Lou Reed, Neil Young, CCR and The Band. Nights I’ll never forget, that’s how thrilling they were. I stopped doing music photography when I started bringing home photos that were less impressive than the ones I had taken of the same act three years before. It had become routine. And anyway, there were at least fifty new bands in 1978. That was too much to keep up with, and the music wasn’t exactly my cup of tea either. It was time for someone else to take my place. Right before I packed up my camera, though, I was fortunate enough to photograph the Talking Heads and David Byrne – real music in a world of noise! A few years ago, twenty years since I stopped working as a photographer, I began to digitalize my archives. That was not only an amazing journey through my past, but also a return to an eventful period in music history. At that time, I was lucky to get in touch with graphic designer SYB. He designed this book beautifully and in a way – I think – that enables the viewer to feel some of the excitement, the energy and the hectic atmosphere of this unique period. To see how it was...

Gijsbert Hanekroot August 2008


Abba...Zappa Seventies Rock Photography  

Extract of the book Abba...Zappa seventies rock photography by Gijsbert Hanekroot, Amsterdam

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