Mu­si­cal Mem­o­ries

Mandate - - Record -

One of the most ex­pe­ri­enced hands in the mu­sic ar­chiv­ing business, Dave Brolan, has hob­nobbed with the great­est mu­sic leg­ends and their equally leg­endary pho­tog­ra­phers. Hav­ing cu­rated the ex­hi­bi­tion, Gib­son Through The Lens, for the very first time in In­dia, he talks to Divya J Shekhar about ar­chiv­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy in the dig­i­tal age, and the stuff leg­ends are made of.

“Mu­sic and pho­tog­ra­phy are univer­sal,” says Dave Brolan, whose pro­fes­sion re­quires both dis­ci­plines to go hand-in-hand. Be­ing an ar­chiv­ist for the past 20 years, Dave con­sid­ers him­self for­tu­nate to have seen many rare mu­sic photographs and to have worked with the leg­ends in the business. “Many years ago, I started work­ing for a mu­sic pub­lisher in London, who pro­duced photo books. This was be­fore the in­ter­net, so I would visit pho­tog­ra­phers and look through prints and nega­tives, and choose pic­tures. Even­tu­ally, I started pro­duc­ing exhibitions to ac­com­pany books,” he rem­i­nisces.

Find­ing pic­tures that have not been seen be­fore and pre­sent­ing them to an au­di­ence who ap­pre­ci­ate it is the real thrill in Dave’s job. For in­stance, Gib­son Through The Lens, pro­duced by Dave over one year along with in­puts from con­tribut­ing pho­tog­ra­phers and the Gib­son staff in the UK and USA, has re­sulted in bring­ing to­gether the best photographs from all gen­res of mu­sic—rock, jazz, blues, metal and pop—with var­i­ous styles of pho­tog­ra­phy— re­portage, por­trai­ture and live. “The pho­tog­ra­phers we chose were all the very best in the business, trusted with un­re­stricted ac­cess, who were able to cap­ture very in­ti­mate and re­laxed mo­ments of the artists with their guitars, some­thing that is no longer pos­si­ble to­day.”

So here, we get to see Jack White and Jimmy Page hold­ing each other’s guitars; rare vi­su­als of Emmy Lou Har­ris next to Jimmy Hen­drix and John Lee Hooker next to Nir­vana;

Bob Mar­ley at his leg­endary con­cert at Lyceum in London (the show that pro­duced his fa­mous record­ing No Woman No Cry); The Bea­tles on the set of their film for Pa­per­back Writer; a rare 1957 pic­ture of Johnny Cash with his cus­tom acous­tic, and the like.

The ex­hi­bi­tion also brought the works of many great pho­tog­ra­phers un­der one roof—be it the Grammy award-win­ning Jim Mar­shall, Baron Wol­man—the first chief pho­tog­ra­pher of Rolling Stone mag­a­zine, Neal Preston—the of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher for Led Zep­pelin, Robert Whi­taker— The Bea­tles’ per­sonal pho­tog­ra­pher at the height of Bea­tle-ma­nia and Ross Halfin—who has worked with Me­tal­lica since the be­gin­ning of their ca­reer. And this is just the tip of the ice­berg. “The ex­hi­bi­tion is unique in the sense that it cov­ers the his­tory of popular mu­sic and the sig­nif­i­cant part that Gib­son Guitars have in it. Ev­ery ma­jor artist and all gen­res of mu­sic are in­cluded. We worked with almost all of the most fa­mous mu­sic pho­tog­ra­phers in the world, so that as a col­lec­tion, this is the finest group of photographs avail­able.”

Dave agrees that the con­nect and the im­por­tance photographs had in the lives of peo­ple in the ’60s and ’70s (it was the only way peo­ple could ex­pe­ri­ence a Jimi Hen­drix con­cert with­out be­ing phys­i­cally present at the do) has changed over the years. “We have lost touch with the visual con­nec­tion be­tween mu­sic and images, be­cause we have no es­cape from the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia. We are over­loaded with images and there is no mys­tery or any­thing we can­not have ac­cess to.”

He how­ever adds that his job of cu­rat­ing and ex­hibit­ing the rarest of rare photographs can bring a smile to the face of any mu­sic enthusiast, even with the con­stant over- ex­po­sure to so­cial me­dia. “When you stand in front of a large printed pho­to­graph in a gallery, it brings to mind mem­o­ries of a cer­tain time in your life, maybe when you first heard the mu­sic, or saw a per­for­mance. I had no ap­pre­hen­sions go­ing into this project, be­cause I see the re­ac­tion that see­ing real pho­tos—hand printed, signed and framed on the wall—has on peo­ple. This is a dif­fer­ent way to ap­pre­ci­ate mu­si­cians and pho­tog­ra­phy. It places ev­ery­thing in a gallery en­vi­ron­ment.”

Dave is happy that the ex­hi­bi­tion was a boom­ing suc­cess across Mumbai, Hy­der­abad, Chen­nai, Ben­galuru and Gur­gaon, and hopes that he would re­turn to In­dia soon. He states that while the na­ture of pho­tog­ra­phy has changed in the dig­i­tal age, so has ar­chiv­ing, “It has be­come a pos­si­bil­ity for more peo­ple but that does not make it bet­ter. The most dif­fi­cult thing is to have free­dom and ac­cess to take pho­tos.” But then, he con­cludes, things can only go up­hill with mu­sic, tech­nol­ogy and pho­tog­ra­phy work­ing hand-in-hand.



An­gus Young


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