Who Shoots Rock and Roll: Behind the Lens with Music Photographer Jessica Lehrman
Who Shot Rock & Roll was one of the standout films at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. A look back at the lives of some of the most notable rock and roll photographers of the’60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, this documentary highlighted the vital role photography plays in the creation of a musician’s image and career. Capturing moments in a young artist’s life can come to define not only the way they are understood in the context of their present work, but also how they are remembered for the rest of their lives. It takes a special person to be able to coax light and personality out of musicians. As the film notes--a lot of artists are comfortable in front of a microphone, but a camera in their face might as well be a gun barrell. Iconic images like the ones of John Lennon sitting on the roof of his 52nd Street penthouse, shot by Bob Gruen, or the cover shot of the Morrison Hotel album by the doors shot by Henry Diltz are inscribed in public memory. These are the images by which we remember the artists we love. The person behind the lens plays a bigger role in musician's lives than they or we might think.
New York-based photographer Jessica Lehrman has travelled the world taking photographs of some of the most notable musicians of the moment. She shoots across every genre including rap, R&B, EDM, and indie and while they're not all shots of rock stars per se, Her pictures have been featured in publications like Rolling Stone, Billboard, Spin, and Vice among many others. With this series of images she shares intimate details and anecdotes about the moments in which she captured the photographs that have become integral elements of her portfolio. Further, these are images that will contribute to the understanding we have of the artists captured. Inspired by Who Shot Rock & Roll, this gallery offers an inside view of the fabric of visuals that help define the musicians our generation loves now, and the person who is helping create their legacies one frame at a time.
Visit Lehrman’s website to explore more of her work and click through the gallery above for a "behind-the-lens" look at the daily life of a music photographer.
1. The Flaming Lips
"This photo was from a series I did for Rolling Stone on the Flaming Lips visiting NYC. We spent the day together finding trouble on the West Side, Wayne Coyne took an hour or so searching for a machete and oregano to set up a scene in his hotel room, then we found glitter confetti at Party City, did yoga at the pool, filled an entire basement up with huge blow up balls. and then rolled around 14th Street in a giant life size orb. Cars didn't seem to be even slightly phased by this happening. This photo is of Wayne as he parts traffic before his show at The Darby."
2. Bodega Bamz
"Bodega Bamz is one of my favorite up-and-coming rappers out of New York right now, and has become family since I started shooting him. I took stills during his recent video shoot for the song "Say Amen" featuring A$AP Ferg (actually I ended up being in the video, looking super serious trying not to laugh while Ferg preached). The video was shot in a beautiful old church in Harlem, and after the shoot as we were walking out, I caught the light bouncing off of everyone who walked by this door and forced Bamz to stand there for one shot. This was the shot."
3. Meech, The Flatbush Zombies
"I just spent the past month on tour with Brooklyn rap groups The Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, Pro Era and Joey Bada$$. We caravanned down the West Coast, stopping every night for a show and to sleep--well, kind of sleep. This is Meech of The Flatbush Zombies "cooling" down a rowdy crowd in Santa Barbara. For most of these shows there was no photo pit so I stood on stage and captured more of the audience than the musicians. Sometimes I would force my way in between sweaty fans in the front row, but that normally resulted in injury."
4. Kendrick Lamar
"Kendrick Lamar has become a staple in my playlists this year. This was actually the first photo I took of him during a day-in-the-life piece I did during his stop in NYC for a Saturday Night Live performance. This was the moment I hopped in the SUV next to him and we headed to 30 Rock. Taken seconds after he pretended to lean in for a kiss and I had a slight panic attack to which he joked, "I was just kidding, girl. Just wanted to see what you'd do." Well, all I did was turn red and laugh for quite some time. One day I will be super cool and come up with great retorts and clever things to say back in such funny instances--that day has yet to come."
5. Jermaine Dupri
"The first tour I ever did was with Jermaine Dupri, whom I had never heard of at the time and had to Google en route to the airport. Obviously since then I have become a bit more hip-hop educated. This photo was me being sacrilegious and shooting during prayer, but more importantly this was the first home-cooked meal we had during tour while we stopped at a friend’s house in Texas for fried quail."
6. A$AP Rocky
"A$AP Rocky at his first stop on the LongLiveA$AP tour. I tend to shoot rap shows with flash since they are typically not very lit and have a lot of movement. I thought I missed this wink he threw at me, but luckily my flash grabbed it. A$AP is one of my favorite live artists to shoot mainly for his dedicated fans that tend to go crazy enough to cause drama--which I love since according to my mother I am an adrenaline junkie with a death wish."
"This was from a photo excursion I went on through the forest in Queens with the band Gospels. I may have forced the innocent boys to climb dangerously high into trees, but it should be noted that I am up there too to get this photo. I think the danger was worth the image, but looking back this was before I had gotten insurance on my equipment (which everyone should go and do now)."
8. Cody B Ware and Remy Banks of World's Fair
"This is Cody B Ware and Remy Banks of the Queens rap group World's Fair in their apartment listening to a new mix of one of their songs for the first time. I tend to focus pretty much all of my work with musicians on artists that I truly love as people, which makes getting intimate shots much more personal to me and to them. I really have no interest in capturing the stories of people I don’t care about, so I'd say my work is more a personal statement of what I find important in music and in humanity than strictly journalism. This was one of those moments I think exemplifies this."
9. Venus X
"Here’s the lovely and talented DJ and personality Venus X in her Washington Heights apartment. I was stupid and somehow forgot all of my film back in Brooklyn, so I only had the roll that was already in my camera and six shots left. This was the sixth shot. Since I took this photo, sadly my Hasselblad has been stolen and this was one of the last photos I took with it."
10. Joey Bada$$
"This is Flatbush hip-hop artist Joey Bada$$ on the dance floor at his 18th birthday party in January. His mother had put together a party for him and fellow Pro Era rapper Kwon P in Brooklyn for just his close friends. It was really fun to see these kids I typically see in front of massive crowds of fans with the people who have always known them."