Who Shot Rock & Roll

Conceived by the likes of Elvis and the Beatles, evolving into the sounds of Madonna…

Jun 24, 2011 - Sep 18, 2011

Conceived by the likes of Elvis and the Beatles, evolving into the sounds of Madonna and Tupac, the phenomenon that is rock and roll indelibly transformed music and society. Catalysts to this sensational revolution, photographers captured and documented these changes, immortalizing the sounds, feelings, and glory of the most sacred moments in rock history. Through many rare and never-before exhibited photographs, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present honors and celebrates the artists who gave rock and roll its visual identity.

Curated by Gail Buckland and organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art, this stimulating exhibition features approximately 175 works by 105 photographers and is organized in six sections: images taken behind the scenes; snapshots of young musicians at the beginning of their careers; photographs of live performances that display the energy of the performers on stage; images of the crowds and fans; portraits that go beyond the surface and celebrity of the musicians; and conceptual images and album covers highlighting the creative and collaborative efforts between the image makers and the subjects.

The show boasts an all-star lineup of photographers and musicians. Among the works on view are such iconic images as William “Red” Robertson’s erotic 1955 photo of a pelvis- thrusting Elvis Presley that appeared on his first album; the contact sheet of Bob Gruen’s portrait of John Lennon in a sleeveless New York City T-shirt; David LaChapelle’s image of Lil Kim as a bikini-clad cop; and Anton Corbijn’s shoot of U2 for their Joshua Tree album cover.

Most of the photographs in the exhibition were uncovered in the photographers’ own files. Rarely if ever exhibited pictures include a 1963 photograph by Philip Townsend of the Rolling Stones; the full sequence of never-before-exhibited photographs by Ed Caraeff of an impassioned Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967; the 1976 photographby Roberta Bayley used on the Ramones first album; the four classic 1967 Beatles portraits by Richard Avedon; and a staggering nine-by-seven-foot tour-de-force by German photographer Andrea Gursky of Madonna performing in 2001.The exhibition will also include music videos by artists featured in the exhibition, an eighty-image slide show by Henry Diltz, and a rock-and-roll chronology using actual album covers.

Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present was organized by the Brooklyn Museum.

Presented locally by Protective Life Corporation. Additional funding provided by WorkPlay, the City of Birmingham and the Members and Corporate Partners of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Promotional support generously provided by The Birmingham News and al.com, and FOX 6 WBRC.


Chosen as one of the “Best Gift Books of the Year” by The New York Times, the exhibition’s companion catalog, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955—Present, by Gail Buckland, beautifully chronicles 300 of the most iconic images in rock history. Available at the Museum store for $40, this aesthetically appealing catalog, makes for both an impressive coffee table book and fascinating read. Please click here to purchase the catalog from the Museum Store or for more details.


Gail Buckland, curator of Who Shot Rock & Roll, is the author or collaborator of thirteen books on photography and history. She currently serves as Adjunct Professor and the former Olympus Visiting Professor of the History of Photography at The Cooper Union, New York City where she has taught since 1979.

Buckland is the curator of numerous exhibitions including The Photographer and the City at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1977); Cecil Beaton War Photographs at the Imperial War Museum, London (1981); Shots in the Dark: True Crime Picturesat the Chelsea Art Museum (2003).

Critically acclaimed for her historical approach to photography, Buckland collaboratedon the best-selling book The American Century by Harold Evans, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Publishers’ Weekly Editors’ Choice.

Buckland also served as photographic consultant to former Vice-President Al Gore on his PowerPoint presentation, documentary and book An Inconvenient Truth. She continues to advise Gore on photographic matters.