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Baron Wolman

Jerry Waving by Baron Wolman
Baron Wolman - Jerry Garcia Waving

Baron Wolman

 1937 – 2020

Baron Wolman

Baron Wolman, an American photographer, was best known for his work in the late 1960s for the music magazine Rolling Stone. He was the first chief photographer for the magazine and contributed photographs from 1967 to 1970. 

Wolman went to university at Northwestern and was stationed in Berlin in the 1960s, serving a tour with US Army intelligence. While there, he created a photographic essay of life behind the then-new Berlin Wall. The success of this photo essay inspired him to become a photojournalist. After leaving Berlin he ended up in San Francisco, and in 1967 he met a Cal Berkeley student and freelance writer named Jann Wenner. Inspired by the music of the era, Wenner created a new music magazine name Rolling Stone. He knew that Wolman actively photographed rock bands and invited Wolman to share his photos with the fledgling magazine. 

Already an established photographer for glossy mags such as Life and Look, Wolman agreed, and in exchange for working for free, he insisted on maintaining ownership of the images. When the first came out five months later, the official recording of rock history began.

Wolman’s virtually unlimited access to his subjects caused his photographs of Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop, Ike & Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Tim Leary, and others to be the graphic centerpieces of Rolling Stone’s layout.

Generally, Wolman preferred informal portraiture, a style that resonated with both the musicians he documented and the audience for the photographs. Wolman recalls, “It’s very hard with a still photograph to capture the action of a concert. You try to see something in the face, the body language, the lighting. Of course, it was much tougher in those days; there were no automatic cameras, so it was a real technical challenge to get a decent photograph. But the really great thing was that I could get on stage with people, no problem.”

When shooting photos at concerts, he felt as if the music was inside him, and he entered an altered state. He felt as if he could almost anticipate what the musician might do, and that is what led to memorable candid shots. He said, “I’m a chameleon and can adapt myself to the situation, and that, to me, is one of the gifts that I was given naturally, and that’s how you get honest pictures.”

By the time he left the magazine three years later, coverage of rock ‘n’ roll performances had changed, becoming replaced by highly stylized images requiring approval of the musician or his or her management. The unfettered access of the early 1960s was gone, and rockstars became packaged, protected, and image-conscious; the casual directness of those early shots seen in Rolling Stone no longer existed. At that stage, when the intimacy of the photography began to wane, Wolman lost interest in shooting concerts and moved on from Rolling Stone

After leaving Rolling Stone in 1970, Wolman founded a fashion magazine, Rags, a counterculture fashion magazine focusing on street fashion rather than store-front fashion. Creative and irreverent, the magazine’s thirteen issues—June 1970 through June 1971—were an artistic if not a financial success.

In 2001 Wolman moved to Santa Fe, where he continued to publish and photograph. Santa Fe remained his home until his death in 2020.

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Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it.