Legendary Rock Photographer Bob Gruen
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 018
My guest today is photographer Bob Gruen, who is one of the most well-known and respected photographers in rock and roll. From John Lennon to Johnny Rotten; Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones; Elvis to Madonna; Bob Dylan to Bob Marley; Tina Turner to Debbie Harry, he has captured the music scene for over fifty years in photographs that have gained worldwide recognition.
Bob was in Toronto for the opening of an exhibition of his work at the Liss Gallery in Yorkville that runs until July 6th. As a photographer myself, I had a lot of questions for him about the art of photography and what his experiences were working with the greatest rock and roll performers of all time.
Rock Photographer Bob Gruen Show Notes:
A self-titled exhibit of works by Bob Gruen will be on display at the Liss Gallery in Toronto from June 15th – July 6th 2019. This exhibition will include two brand new silkscreen prints made in collaboration with Gary Lichtenstein Editions of Tina Turner and Debbie Harry!
Hello, and welcome to episode number 18 of Sing Dance Act Thrive. My guest today is Bob Gruen, who is one of the most well known and respected photographers in rock and roll. From John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, Muddy Waters to The Rolling Stones, Elvis to Madonna, Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, Tina Turner to Debbie Harry, he has captured the music scene for over 50 years in photographs that have gained worldwide recognition. Bob was in Toronto for the opening of an exhibition of his work at Liss Gallery in Yorkville. And that runs until July 6, if you happen to be in Toronto to check that out. As a photographer myself, I had lots of questions about the art of photography, and then also what his experiences were like working with some of the greatest rock and roll performers of all time. I hope you enjoy it. And for additional show notes and some photos and links, check out dianefoy.com/018. Welcome to the show.
Bob Gruen: Oh, thanks for having me.
Diane Foy: You’re having a show here at Liss Gallery and this is your third time here?
Bob Gruen: Yes.
Diane Foy: Cool.
Bob Gruen: It was a very successful gallery and we did very well on our debut back in Toronto.
Diane Foy: Do you show different photos each time you come?
Bob Gruen: 2:06
On a different selection, yes. Some of the more popular favorites, of course we repeat, but there is a whole series of new series of my work that I’ve done that they have here now.
Diane Foy: 2:16
I saw that and I really loved the diamond sprinkle. Tell me about that process because that’s a thing I haven’t seen before. And I thought it was really cool.
Bob Gruen: 2:25
Well, I got a friend I call Gary look, his theme from look to see editions at mana in New Jersey, he’s very excellent at translating my photos. So screens a completely different process. And so when you look at him, and he looks simple, even a black and white might have seven or eight different tones of black and white, seven or eight different screens to make that print. And then he covers it with a glitter kind of diamond dust effect that makes it really sparkle and shine. And you know, for certain ones with Tina Turner, the one with Debbie Harry when we put a diamond dust on it. And it gives it a very, very special, exciting kind of look. It’s kind of a new direction of way to produce my photos with a new look to them.
Diane Foy: 3:07
And how do you decide which photos you’re going to do that to. And I saw also some photos were completely covered in the diamond dust. And then there’s some that just had little streaks of it.
Bob Gruen: 3:17
Jagger in his imagine Keith Richards it goes with that where the diamond this is just in the lights to make the lights glow and shine a bit more. It’s something I work with Gary. Gary’s had 50 years experience silk screening. So he knows more about that process than I do. And I, I usually follow his lead with suggestions because he knows what to suggest. And I don’t even know what can be done. So a lot of it is working with him and work with such a great printer that we come up with these good results.
Diane Foy: 3:44
Oh, yeah, I totally want to do it to one of my photos. Especially the Debbie Harry one that was really cool with that cover.
Bob Gruen: 3:53
Well, silk screening process itself is not that difficult. Although you have to have the equipment to make this or go to someplace where they can do it. You know, with you. But you know, well, like any art, it takes a lot of talent. You know, anybody can pick up a pencil and draw something, but to draw something realistic or something pleasant it takes a lot of time. And Gary he’s got a lot of talent, which is why I’ve been making these silk screen with him.
Diane Foy: 4:15
Yeah, yeah, I’d want to get in there and actually sprinkle that thing to one of my own.
Bob Gruen: 4:20
You can, I mean, you you play in certain places as you like. I mean, it’s not very different from what kids do in a school where they draw something down and you put some glitter on it. It’s just more sophisticated way of doing that.
Diane Foy: 4:33 Yeah. And it probably last lot longer.
Bob Gruen: 4:35 I hope so. It’s suppose to.
Diane Foy: 4:38
Yeah. What are some of your favorite photographs that you’ve taken?
Bob Gruen: 4:43
A lot of them, I have a lot of favorites. Luckily, I’ve taken a lot of pictures that I like. But most particularly the Tina Turner picture, it’s multiple image where Tina was dancing with the strobe light flashing, and I took the one second exposure that caught five different images of Tina dancing. This picture, I took of John Lennon and the Statue of Liberty, which I think has a lot of meaning beyond just rock and roll where I think John and the statue are symbols of personal freedom. So I think that picture resonates with a lot of people. Because you see, for me rock and roll in general, rock and roll is about freedom. It’s about the freedom to express your feelings very loudly in public. And I try to capture that in my photos. A lot of people’s photos will show you the facts. But I try to show you the feelings that when people see my pictures, they actually get a feeling of excitement, a feeling of freedom, of feeling a presence of you know, being in the moment being alive. That’s what I’m trying to show in my photos.
Diane Foy: 5:37
Is this something you always wanted to do as a child? Were you always taking photos or how did you get there?
Bob Gruen: 5:43
I learned it from my mother when I was literally four or five years old. My mom’s hobby was photography. And she’s a development printer on pictures. And when I was very little she took me in the darkroom and showed me how to do it. And I enjoyed the process and I took to it right away. And actually when I was eight years old, they already bought me my first camera, a Brownie Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, a kind of a simple box camera. But I used it to take a lot of pictures and start to, I learn how to take pictures of my family. And I think that was great training for taking pictures of rock and roll bands, basically told me how to take five or six dysfunctional people in one or six of a second. Where they all look good. And that’s what you have to do a rock band. So that’s what I learned from my family.
Diane Foy: 6:25
Yeah. And then how old were you when you started doing rock and roll photography, like taking pictures of bands?
Bob Gruen: 6:32
Well, back in highschool, my idea was to tune on and tune in and drop out. That was very popular in the 60’s and I dropped that to live with a rock and roll band. My hobby was always photography. So I always took pictures of my friends. And when the rock band got a contract, a record contract, they were called the Glitterhouse at that time. I have nothing to do with the Glitter, it was a pre glitter moment but they were named the Glitterhouse. And they got a contract with Bob Crewe, the famous producer. And the record company used my photos and they hired me to take some pictures of another group actually Tommy James and The Shondells. And it was one of the first I got hired for. And then one thing just led to another and then I met Tina Turner. My first album cover was a Tina Turner album cover. And it’s just noble. Every time I took pictures, I met somebody and I took pictures for them and for more people.
Diane Foy: 7:17
Yeah, a lot of your photos are very either live or very candid. Did you do a lot of photos that were more staged? Or did you get into like studio lighting and all that kind of stuff?
Bob Gruen: 7:32
I don’t do a lot of stage shots or studio shots. I did take one course one time in studio techniques. So I know how to set up some lights in the background. It comes up once in a while but I’m much more comfortable doing something live I would rather be. And I’ve done this many, many times when a band is about to go on stage. And it’s like the last call and you’re in the dressing just before they go on. And they’ve got their outfits together and they’re feeling pumped and they feel like a band and they look like a band. Your audience is chanting for them. I would rather take 10 pictures in that moment. Than take 100 pictures on a Saturday afternoon of them trying to pretend to look like that. You know, because it what it is like that you get that reality moment. It’s actually a lot easier to spend the whole day trying to pretend and recreate that.
Diane Foy: 8:19
Yeah, yeah, I started out as a photographer. And I found I went to a two year photography school where we taught all the rules, all very technical. And it was hard to kind of go from that to breaking the rules. And I find…
Bob Gruen: 8:36 Well actually I’ve never learned any rules.
Diane Foy: 8:39
I know you could just be free. But I found when I did kind of find my groove. I did like location shoots more. I did do kind of stage shots. But it was more out in the environment lets you know where you’re comfortable with. But I’m curious for me, I find I’m very critical of my own work. And there’s so many great shots that are not completely in focus and not perfect. And did you ever struggle with that?
Bob Gruen: 9:11
Yeah, most of my, most of my pictures are not perfect. And lots of them are not in focus or wrong exposure. Yet this way, I always tell people, we have to take a lot of pictures. And if you take a lot of pictures, it better be a couple of good ones. And if you only show the good ones, people think you’re good. I would never show my contact sheets. Because if I wanted too good pictures on a roll people will see 35 bad ones. You know.
Diane Foy: 9:34 Yeah, true.
Bob Gruen: 9:34 So I try to show you the good pictures.
Diane Foy: 9:39
And how do you know if if there is a photo that is not quite perfectly exposed? Or? Or in focus? How do you know? If it’s still a wicked photo?
Bob Gruen: 9:53
Well, whether or not it’s talking to you, or they’re not saying something, whether or not it has a feeling. If you’re getting feelings from it, it doesn’t really matter. If you get into the details or the facts. Because for me, it’s more important to get the feeling. You know, actually, they used to make fun of me because a lot of my pictures, they’re not sharp focused. And in fact, talking to John and Yoko teasing me about that I brought him one of the context sheets and showed them that in fact, a number of my pictures were actually very sharp and clear focused. But they weren’t the good one, it didn’t catch a good one, I might have a slight blur or slight, you know, motion to it, or slight softness to it. That really brought out the feeling of it. So the pictures that we were picking that we liked, were the pictures that happen to have a soft focus. I actually have done it long enough that they call it a certain thing, they call it a soft focus photo, because they don’t all have to be sharp, the crystal clear now in school, if it’s not crystal clear, it’s wrong. Since I didn’t go to school, I didn’t know that was wrong. And I callit good instead. Because a lot people, you know, kind of like the ones that have the more feeling.
Diane Foy: 11:01
I also found out when you’re taught with old school film, you kind of have to be a good photographer, because you only have those 12, 24 shots
Bob Gruen: 11:13
Well you only have certain amount of film, 12 frames on a big roll, of 35 on a small roll of film. And if you would over that limit, if you wanted to take 37 pictures instead of 35. And you had to put a new role of film in, that role of film cost $8 and another 15 to go get it developed. So before you spend those at $25, which is a lot of money in 1970’s. You would have to think about whether or not you really wanted those extra two photos. So often you get down to the end of the roll, you’re kind of thinking economically, like, do I need a picture of that person? Really? And, you know, sometimes you decide whether or not you want to shoot an extra frame just based on how much it’s going to cost you.
Diane Foy: 11:55 Right. And have you made the switch to digital yourself?
Bob Gruen: 12:01
Yeah, the world’s changed digital. So I did too. Through the 90’s you can still take pictures, you know, sending a magazine a slide or transparency. But after 2000 you couldn’t send a slider transparency to magazine, you had to send a scan, they stopped scanning for people. And so as long as you have to send them a scan, you might as well just take it as a scan, it saves a lot of time and trouble scanning is not as easy as putting a picture in front of a scanner and pushing a button because once you scan it, you then have to clean it and balance it and that can take hours per photo. So I’d rather just shoot you know digital. I started around 2000 when the digital cameras got to be good enough quality that you could sell a photo
Diane Foy: 12:44
And do you find that you still kind of stick to less photos because I find people now that have come into the digital and they’ve all that’s all they know.
Bob Gruen: 12:53
Well I’ve always you know had an economy of shooting and I don’t just bang away and take on a vicious there’s too many to look at later you know.
Diane Foy: 13:01 That’s a lot of editing.
Bob Gruen: 13:04 So I can get through the editing process but yes easier knowing that you can just erase the chip and reuse it you know, of course then you have to buy a new $3,000 computer but, there’s you know, always expenses and photography is a very expensive hobby, which is why I started selling pictures to pay for the hobby.
Diane Foy: 13:25
Do you have advice for photographers starting out they want to get into entertainment photography?
Bob Gruen: 13:33
Nowadays I don’t really know what to tell somebody. I mean, I always got to meet bands it’s easier if you go to a club or something during soundcheck and actually meet the manager talk to them if you take pictures to try to get the pictures to the band so because they’re the first ones that might want to use them they might tell you of a magazine that interested in you that’s done an interview that you can sell your pictures to. There’s always a good idea if you really get into it to try to meet up and during soundcheck because during the show that they’re busy, actually, they usually busy during soundcheck. So if you get there early and not try to intrude but move away till there’s a moment to reach somebody and talk to them. It was very frustrating. I mean, a lot of record company people are trained to answer the phone and say no, no matter what you’re asking. You know, it depends on the act.
Diane Foy: 14:25
So sometimes if you can get to the band, yeah. And what about the other way? So performers, maybe they’re starting out, they don’t necessarily know what to give photographers or they’re uncomfortable. What advice do you have for performing artists that are that they want these amazing shots of themselves, but.
Bob Gruen: 14:48
Well, be amazing. You can’t manufacture amazing pictures of somebody who’s doesn’t have that personality. I actually did a panel of SXSW was with john artists, and Jesse Malin and a few other people, VP, Fallon. And the main question we were trying to answer was whether or not you can teach someone to be a rock star. And the basic answer we all had was no. You can sell them some nice clothes. But if they don’t know how to wear them, they’re just not going to look cool. Cool is not something you can teach. It’s charisma, you know, people are born with charisma or not. And in some very talented people who just don’t have that charisma, in a sense, you know. There’s a certain amount of pictures of Eric Clapton he has one expression. He’s got a lot of music but you know, as far as photos, you’re not going to get a picture of him looking like Tina Turner because he just doesn’t do that. With the Tina Turner picture is one of my best. And sometimes people have asked me if I could take a picture of him looking like Tina, and I was telling I’ll do what I didn’t you do what Tina did? So, yes, no, you know, you can’t really teach charisma.
Diane Foy: 16:02
Maybe could it be from when you’re on stage, to at least make a point of playing to the cameras? Or.
Bob Gruen: 16:14
Well play to the audience, you know, and if you always use the camera, yeah, play to them. I mean, sometimes it’s awkward when people just stand there and they want expression. They have no clue what to do. For me, this is show business, you know, put on a show. That’s what it’s all about. If you can’t put on a show, get another business.
Diane Foy: 16:30
There’s a live performance coach. I don’t know if you ever met him Tom Jackson. And he teaches every song that you have, it doesn’t sound the same so why does it look the same so it’s kind of.
Bob Gruen: 16:41
Alice Cooper about that his show is a complete theatrical play every song is the actual production. You know, he really puts on a show and a number of people do in their own way without too many props screen, they always accept each show each song, you know, they get the audience involved. Always like an act that actually talks to the audience and, and wants to entertain the audience wants to be involved with them. A band that just comes out and plays their songs you know, nervously to try to sound just like the record. You don’t have to buy tickets to go see the record. You have the record.
Diane Foy: 17:19 Yeah. You can listen at home.
Bob Gruen: 17:21
Let’s see a show. They can have smoking lights nowadays, but that can be done very well can be very exciting, spectacle. You know, people like spectacle going back to Roman days, people like spectacle.
Diane Foy: 17:36
Let’s talk about some of your photos that are being shown here. I’m a Debbie Harry fan. So you aren’t tell me anything about Debbie Harry?
Bob Gruen: 17:41 Well, who is not a Debbie Harry fan?
Diane Foy: 17:45
It was an interesting shot. It looks like there was like a roller coaster in the background.
Bob Gruen: 17:48
There was a, they were Punk Magazine was making a photo novella of a day at the beach. It’s actually aliens come out of the ocean and try to kidnap Debbie and Joey Ramone saves her from the aliens. It’s a really funny little comic book in the middle of one of the Punk Magazines. And a lot of my friends were out there that day. I didn’t actually take the pictures for Punk that day. But I took some other pictures of Debbie and Joey so I’m on the beach. And that’s just what Debbie’s like, Oh, that was not a setup. That was her walking across the street towards me. That’s what Debbie looks like. The hottest girl in America and she still looks that way. She’s, she’s got that charisma. We were talking about.
Diane Foy: 18:26 That’s the thing I think. You know, she can look really cool.
Bob Gruen: 18:28
Well you can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry. She just looks too cool.
Diane Foy: 18:33
And you have a lot of John Lennon. Like you’re close with him? Did you shoot him through, you know, through the years? Or was it for a period of time.
Bob Gruen: 18:45
Well I met him when he came to New York. I was asked to take pictures for the interview, for Interview magazine, no, actually for after dark magazine. And so I met him through the interview. But the story we were working on actually was not necessarily about John & Yoko, it was about the Elephant’s Memory band that they were using as a backup band at that time. So I went to the studio with them and took some pictures of them together with the band. And then they liked those photos. And they use them in their album cover for their Some Time in New York City album. And that’s how we met and they asked me to come run more often. And they actually lived around the corner from me half a block away. They met my wife and she started working as their assistant and just threw one thing or another we got to like each other and spend more more time together. It’s very hard to tell somebody how to become friends with somebody like you can’t just walk in as I want to be your friend. But since high school, I always gravitated towards the artistic side towards the musicians in the theatrical groups. Those are my after school activities. And after school, I ended up hanging out with musicians, artists. I didn’t approach rock and roll as a journalist to record it. I, you know, the rock and roll lifestyle is my lifestyle. I’m up all night. I go to clubs all the time. That’s how I live. And so I was just kind of photographing my life.
Diane Foy: 20:05 And what about elton john?
Bob Gruen: 20:07
Well, Elton, actually will right after American Tina Turner got introduced to a publicist which introduced me to another publicist. And I remember when he was in the office at MCA Records, talking to the publicist into hiring me the photo of this new piano player that was just coming over from England. And nobody have ever heard of Elton John. And so I photographed him at the Fillmore first two times, he played it twice. Because the first time he played there, he liked my photos and had me come back. And then I think the next two times he played at Carnegie Hall, and then he played masters for Gordon and I worked with the first five or six years that he was coming around in America.
Diane Foy: 20:00 How cool.
Bob Gruen: 20:43 And he’s a wonderful man.
Diane Foy: 20:45 He was very dramatic.
Bob Gruen: 20:46
And the most exciting performer and I remember when I first got the assignment, the assignment to go and photograph a piano player, and it’s always really difficult. And I was kind of very young. And just beginning at that point. I was like, how do you get a picture of a guy behind this giant piano? He’s like, a little bit of a spar head or something. But Elton jumps around, he stands on top of the piano, I have a great picture of him. Horizontal with his legs straight up behind him is only his hands touching the keyboards. It’s actually in the movie that they just made at the end of the movie. You’ll see that picture.
Diane Foy: 21:19 Oh, cool. What else is out there, Kiss?
Bob Gruen: 21:22
I did a lot of work with Kiss. I photographed the money first did a big show, New Year’s Eve opening for a pop Academy music and I remember going photographing them, and then backstage afterwards going backstage because I always we take pictures of the band backstage. Whatever celebrities were around to come say hello. And the manager met me at the door. The dressing room is that we don’t take any pictures backstage when the makeup comes off, there is no band. That all pictures you take of Kiss are back in the first 10 or 15 minutes before the show they will put on your makeup. They will spend about 10 or 15 minutes doing so called normal things like they would talk on the telephone walk around in the hallway or looking at a newspaper or all kinds of normal activities as if they were always Kiss. We literally had 10 or 15 minutes to do that. From the time that makeup was done till they had to go on stage. And then once they went on stage and the makeup would run when they came offstage, there wasn’t kissed anymore. Their only Kiss when they’re in identity as Kiss. And it really is an identity. You know, I did a photo novella with them, where it starts off with a wearing suits because they’re incognito in their plainclothes outfits. Of course, you know, with suits on you’d never recognize with that face that they were really Kiss. Creem Magazine had a lot of fun with things though they were always making fun of things. So we did a series with them first wearing suits on the we went back to my studio and they put on their Kiss outfits and I was changing the film and my camera and at one point I kind of felt this presence behind me and Gene had been in the studio, you know, when we came in, wearing this suit actually my suit, they didn’t have their own suits Gene and Ace wearing my suits in that picture. And I felt this presence around me, I turned around and Gene was now Gene in the monster in Kiss and he was about a foot and a half taller than me. And he was this monster. He was no longer the nice Jewish guy from Brooklyn that I just been telling jokes with. He was this giant monster standing around. I took my son to see them when he was five years old. And we came backstage and my son was terrified. He was like hugging my leg hiding behind me when I try to introduce him to Gene.
Diane Foy: 23:35 I’d be that. I’d would be the terrified kid. I can’t.
Bob Gruen: 23:37 I still remember. He was like, Dad what were you thinking?
Diane Foy: 23:41
Did you ever photograph them like after in the 80’s when they did take the makeup off?
Bob Gruen 23:47
It wasn’t the same for me. And when once they got with Dr. McKee, they left the original manager bill Aucoin. Things got much more corporate. And it for me without the makeup, it wasn’t the same excitement. They’re great band. But even they have to I had to give it up and go back to being Kiss because that’s what they’re best at.They’re the best Kiss around. They’re much better than any of the Kiss imitations.
Diane Foy: 24:11 And one of the books I saw Suzi Quatro.
Bob Gruen: 24:15
Susie’s one of my favorites. She was amazing. She was really powerful woman at a time when there weren’t very many women being powerful in rock and roll. But I’ve had to look to work with Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, Debbie Harry, Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett.
Diane Foy: 24:32 All the best rock and roll chicks
Bob Gruen: 24:34
Patti Smith and a lot of pretty powerful women. And Susie was one of the early ones and one of the best and certainly one of the sexiest. And she was opening for Alice Cooper when I met her. I did a lot of different pictures for her actually, one of them was an album cover a picture of her, silhouetted against the sky. It was kind of funny. I remember the last time she played New York as many years ago, I think it was ‘79 I think, and my son was about five years old at that time. And I told him we were going to go see Suzi Quatro. And he’s like, Dad we’re always going to see your friends, who’s Suzi Quatro? I say Chris, you might have know her, she plays on TV, she’s called Leather. And he was like, Oh my god, you know, Leather? When Susie got on TV, she became famous in Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero.
Diane Foy: 25:20
On Happy Days. That’s how I knew her, when I was a kid, I was like, it’s Leather.
Bob Gruen: 25:25
That’s how great she is, she was a rock and roller. It’s always interesting to me to see what draw, when people come to my house. I have 27 file cabinets with the names of different bands on the front. And it’s interesting to see who goes for the Kiss draw, or who goes for you know, Joan Jett went straight for the Suzi Quatro draw.
Diane Foy: 25:45
I discovered her from happy days like everyone else, but then it was years later that I discovered that she was actually a rock star in real life.
Bob Gruen: 25:52
I met her when she was playing an opening for Alice Cooper on a tour. It was only a couple years later, she got into the TV,
Diane Foy: 25:59 Joan Jett always says Suzi Quatro is her influence
Bob Gruen: 26:03 There’d be no Suzie Quatro, there’d be no Joan Jett.
Diane Foy: 26:06 Right. Rolling Stones?
Bob Gruen: 26:08
Well Rolling Stones, were the first band I saw on a theater, on 1965 I saw them at the Academy of Music, I got my first photo pass to shoot them in 1972. One of the most exciting nights I’ve had, the Rolling Stones are the epitome of rock and roll. If you want to know what rock and roll looks like, you just look at the Rolling Stones. Any era, they look like rock and roll. And they’ve always been one of my favorites. You know in in it was they talked about the 60’s, were you blue, or were you silver or gold? I’m silver,I like the Rolling Stones. The Beatles are good. But I like the Rolling Stones.
Diane Foy: 26:44 That little, little danger.
Bob Gruen: 26:46
You know, and just the publicity campaign, would you allow your daughter to marry a Rolling Stone? Great line.
Diane Foy: 26:54 I don’t think I’ve heard that before.
Bob Gruen: 26:55
And it’s easier too because it’s about freedom. And people have always been afraid of freedom. There’s a great line in the movie Easy Rider with Jack Nicholson and says, people talk a lot about individual freedom. But when they see a free individual, they get scared. And that makes them angry. That’s very powerful statement.
Diane Foy: 27:12
And it’s hard. I think as an artist that you come across that you’re trying to do your thing, and everyone tells you, you can’t do that. You can’t do that you shouldn’t do that. And it’s basically they’re scared and they have kind of put that on you.
Bob Gruen: 27:24
The job as an artist is to imagine, because you don’t like John Lennon said, that when you’re school and you’re daydreaming people will you know, smack your hand with a ruler or something. But it’s the job of an artist to daydream to imagine something new. And then to pursue that and try to express that and tell people about that. And like any, was, don’t worry about any kind of criticism, you shouldn’t pay attention to that the job of an artist is to make the work, not the read the criticism. And you know, some artists get recognized and some don’t. But your job is not that whether you be recognized or not, is to make the art. And a lot of people don’t make very much money, but you make a lot of art.
Diane Foy: 28:00 It’s the life of musician.
Bob Gruen: 28:04
And there’s a famous phrase that artists body artists, which means art for the sake of art, I kind of modified that. Art is _______, which means art for the sake of money, because you want to make art but you have to pay your rent.
Diane Foy: 28:16
Yeah. Who do you, do you still shoot anything? I saw, like the most recent would be like Lady Gaga, I saw it.
Bob Gruen: 28:25
Well actually the most recent is Green Day, some of the picture here in the galleries in earlier one. But I’ve been shooting Green Day, that’s most of the main band I’ve actually been working with for a long time now. I’ve been taking them patiently for 25 years. And in September, my next book coming out will be a book Green Day photos.
Diane Foy: 28:48 Oh, cool.
Bob Gruen: 28:48
So I may not be taking as many as I was, as I’m making the book now kind of done with that set, you know, statement. And my next book after that is autobiography, you know, we’ll see where we go from there.
Diane Foy: 28:56
Oh, cool. Now that you’re not doing it as much as shooting rock stars, do you take photographs? Have you gone in any other directions with photography?
Bob Gruen: 29:09
My grandchildren? You know just family photos. And I still like rock and roll, I still go out all the time to see shows, mostly friends are playing and I still have the urge at some point to go and take pictures and record it. And I put a lot of that on my website on gruen.com, and you can see all my recent work where I’ve been and what I do and but I don’t you know, the kind of magazines I worked for don’t really exist anymore. And even Rolling Stone is not a monthly magazine is a daily website. And that kind of pressure to you know, take a picture on the first song and have it posted around the world before the guy finishes singing. Iit’s not something I was ever really enthused so and I limit the access so much now that it takes a lot of emailing and begging and justification.
Diane Foy: 29:53 True. Most photographers don’t get backstage.
Bob Gruen: 30:00
And not even bacsktage, not even front stage. If you’re in front of the stage, you’re allowed to be there for three reasons, three songs or something. And I’d rather shoot the last three songs when everything is emotional, and all the excitement is happening and the confetti is flying. And all the spotlights are on in the first three songs when the band is just trying to get the audience’s attention.
Diane Foy: 30:19 So your website, do you are you active on social media?
Bob Gruen: 30:23
I wouldn’t say active I do have a Twitter and you know, Facebook and Instagram account. Mostly I just put up notices for my exhibits. And we’ve started a series random series where every few weeks I’ll put up. You know what happened on this day. Rolling Stones did this or Alice Cooper and Dolly happened on this day and things like that.
Diane Foy: 30:40 How cool.
Bob Gruen: 30:41
And I’ve actually been getting a lot of hits for that. I think I’m up to about 15,000 followers on Instagram. So it gets out there.
Diane Foy: 30:52 Well definitely Instagram is for photographers.
Bob Gruen: 30:55
It was good. I think I had about 1100 I think and then I posted a picture of Green Day and Bill Joel posted it, reposted it on his site and he has like a million followers. So on the next day I had 10,000 so it’s building up and probably after the book comes out I’ll get a lot more.
Diane Foy: 31:12 Anything else that you want to share at?
Bob Gruen: 31:15
Well I just hope people come to Liss Gallery here in Toronto, this show is going to be up for about two weeks I think. And we got a lot of great pictures here, things to see, things to buy, take home, enjoy. And photos make a great investment because it’s like any other art they do increase in value. And it’s not like a tax certificate it’s something you can buy a little piece of value that you live with. You buy something you really enjoy you put on your wall. Billie Joe Armstrong actually has a picture of John and Yoko that he says reminds him of him and his wife as a picture of John & Yoko in the recording studio. And every time Billy Joel wakes up, he sees that picture in his bedroom and he knows it’s not time to go to the recording studio, he gets back and work.
Diane Foy: 31:59
That’s great. Do you limit how many of each particular photo that you allow to be sold?
Bob Gruen: 32:05
Well in the larger sizes they’re limited. I was making so many pictures before we started the editions that I haven’t edition, the smaller ones that we were already selling. With the larger prints that we started selling they are numbered edition and silk screens like are limited.
Diane Foy: 32:21 Oh, cool. Well, thank you so much.
Bob Gruen: 32:22 Thank you.
Diane Foy: 32:22 I learned a lot.
Bob Gruen: 32:22 Okay.