Who Shot Rock & Roll?

Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City

I always get excited with the changing of the museum banners along many of Los Angeles’s city streets. It means there’s something new to learn about, something new to explore.

If you haven’t been to the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, you’re missing out. It’s a blend of two of the greatest loves of my life: music and film. Admittedly, I’ll always be more partial to moving film over still photography because of my greatest love in cinema.

I spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon, about 6 weeks ago, exploring the show which highlights photographers who captured the moments of some of the greatest artists of our time behind the scenes. Be sure to check out the engaging documentary film produced for the exhibition that plays in the main gallery space to hear more from the artists whose work hangs on the museum walls. Watching the 30 minute film brings the photographs around you to life. I knew I’d be back before the close of the exhibition because I wanted to know more.

Another wonderful thing about the Annenberg is their dedication to their IRIS Nights lecture series, which compliments the exhibition one step further by offering free public panel talks  and discussions from the artists themselves or distinguished guests in the field.

Last Thursday night, I attended the IRIS Nights Lecture series and had a front row seat (okay, more like 5 rows back actually) where I listened in as 3 women who pioneered the music video industry and the rise of MTV itself, where the topics of discussion. What a treat to hear the stories of Penelope Speeris, Gale Sparrow and Liz Heller. From the conception of one of the first music videos, to the struggles of building the empire that MTV would become, to learning of how the power of “fake it until you make it” truly works when you’re trying to make something out of nothing.

I sat there completely absorbed in hearing how a recent college graduate, Penelope Speeris, got a call one day from a record label executive to shoot an artist and then lace their music to the sequence, creating what would become the music video genre. It was interesting to explore the financial turmoil MTV went through, nearly shutting their doors before a great marketing scheme saved them as portrayed in the words of Gale Sparrow. I was impressed with Liz Heller, who somehow fell into music video production without any experience and had to figure out how to shoot a music video and create a budget to do so.

Unfortunately, MTV has lost the “music,” so to speak, and replaced much of its programming with reality TV. I remember those times when I’d come home from school and turn on TRL while I did my homework, or sat and watched VJ’s take us through the top  10 music videos of the time. Those were the days. So long MTV.


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  1. Pingback: The Power of Photography | All That Glitters

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