Baron Wolman’s The Groupies – a true snapshot of sixties style
What comes across most in this sensuous, stylish collection of black and white images from renowned American photographer Baron Wolman is the care that went into their creation. Speaking to The Upcoming at a busy private viewing for industry and press, Wolman enthused about how the collection came to be: “I love women and I love photographing women! My dream came true!”
Baron Wolman was the first ever staff photographer for music magazine Rolling Stone, and from 1967 to 1970 he captured iconic images of the biggest personalities and events of that key era in music history. Backstage at the rock and roll concerts he covered, Baron became intrigued by the constant presence of a set of women styled to the nines – these weren’t your average fans but serious groupies; fashionable, strutting girls who created what Baron describes in his 2011 book The Rolling Stone Years as a “subculture of chic”. Baron – that’s his name, he’s not a member of the peerage – became so fascinated by these women that in 1968 he and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner decided they warranted a dedicated issue of the magazine, which they called The Groupies and Other Girls, and which featured both Baron’s photographs and interviews with the groupies. One of the photographs, Lacy, even featured as the Christmas card to subscribers that year.
Baron’s shots convey warmth and a sense of affection, and present an evocative, historical snapshot of a unique side effect of the era. The images range from provocative – for example Miss Sandra and Miss Pamela, shot in Los Angeles in 1968 – to high fashion poses that wouldn’t look out of place in Vogue, where, interestingly, Baron had plied his trade before Rolling Stone. Despite the seductive overtones, the images are not inappropriate; nudity is handled with care, such as the beautiful photo of Victoria and Marlene, taken in San Francisco in 1969. Among the most iconic images on display is that of Miss Pamela (see the image on the flyer), the super-groupie who went on to write a book about her experiences, called I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie.
Baron’s Rolling Stone Years book was published by Omnibus Press, whose Picture Editor, Jacqui Black, says: “Baron Wolman is truly an inspiration to music photographers all over the world. A true gentleman, he approached the subject of groupies with class and dignity, representing them as beautiful women rather than sexual objects. Baron’s portraiture is absolutely timeless – these images look as fresh today as ever but he represents a forgotten species! Bring back music lovers like these!”
Exhibition details: 46/48 Beak Street London W1F 9RJ until 27th October 2012.
Curated by archivist Dave Brolan and presented by Mach Schau in association with Rock Paper Photo, all the images in the exhibit can be purchased online here as limited-edition fine art prints hand-signed and numbered by Baron.