A teenage, heavily eyelinered Joan Jett mischievously flipping someone off; a leering Steve Jones grabbing his crotch in an LA apartment building pool shortly after the break up of the Sex Pistols; the usually reclusive Dylan, posing gamely in the dressing room of the Roxy on the Sunset Strip: the photographer Brad Elterman not only hung out with all the coolest people in West Coast rock n’ roll in the late 1970s and early 80s; he also knew how to take their picture in such a way that would capture that moment’s precise essence. For nearly three decades, Elterman gave up photography, and stowed away the iconic photos he took during that era. Luckily for us, over the past several years, Elterman has begun to exhibit these pictures in art venues, in print and online, and, aided by their newfound popularity on his Tumblr, has even returned to photography, drawn by contemporary pop culture and the encouragement of his internet fans.
Employing an immediate, snapshot-like style, Elterman’s photos effortlessly convey the ambiance of a scene whose particular type of gritty glamour has become increasingly influential over the past thirty years. From the platinum tinted shag hairdos of teenage glam rockers to the bare breasted shenanigans of coked-up southern California party girls, this is a pre-AIDS and pre-rehab world, where the sun never sets and the party never ends. Elterman saw it all, and his images faithfully record that world as he knew and experienced it.
Indeed, one of the signatures of Elterman’s photography is its insidery feel. As viewers, we’re invited to step into the pre-Photoshop, pre-PR handler world of American celebrity, and raise our own metaphorical champagne flute in complicity. Unlike the cruelty of today’s paparazzi images, which bring us closer to stars only at the steep price of aggressive boundary violation, Elterman’s photographs are relaxed, chilled-out. You sense a certain privileged intimacy between photographer and subject: a privilege that is, in turn, extends to the spectator. Which makes the experience of looking at these pictures today all the more bittersweet. We’re thankful to these images for still having the power to transport us to a moment that was, but we’re also aware that the world they depict, with its innocent recklessness, is one that is – unfortunately but inevitably – long gone.
Brad Elterman’s career started with a borrowed camera at the age of 16. His first photo, of Bob Dylan performing onstage, was published in 1974.
That lead to endless nights of covering the rock scene in Hollywood encompassing pop, punk and rock bands including Joan Jett and The Runaways, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Kiss, Queen, Blondie, the Ramones, the Bay City Rollers, Abba, Boney M, Kenny Rogers, The Who, Leif Garrett, Michael Jackson, etc.
“It was my education in life,” says Brad, who left school to travel with bands and visit European magazine editors at the age of 19. “I had a front row seat in life which took me everywhere from Munich to Tokyo to Rio.” Brad toured Japan with teen idol Leif Garret, traveled to South America with German pop stars Boney M, and did tour dates with The Eagles and Rod Stewart, just to name a few.
Some of the magazines that Brad contributed to include:US: Creem, Circus, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, Hit Parader, Phonograph Record Magazine, Rock Magazine, Rock Scene, New York Post, JAPAN: Music Life, Rock Show, EUROPE: Muzeik Express, Photo Foto, Pop, Pop Rocky, Bravo, Das Freizeit, Magazun, Popcorn, Poster Magazine, Oh Boy, Fabulous 208, Jackie, Sounds, New Musical Express, Melody Maker. Often Brad was hired to do official publicity photos by major record labels including RCA, Warner Bros, MCA, Mercury, Columbia, RSO and Capitol Records.
In 1980 Brad formed one of the first Los Angeles-based photo agencies, California Features International, Inc. which specialized in providing celebrity coverage to magazines and newspapers worldwide. Brad covered Award Shows including The Oscars, Awards, American Music and Grammy Awards countless times.
In 1992 Brad co-founded Online USA, Inc. one of the first Digital Photo Agencies employing some of the finest American and British photo-journalists, again specializing in photos of celebrities. Online USA was subsequently purchased by Getty Images in 2000, in a deal that CBS MarketWatch called “the deal of the day”. Brad remained with Getty Images as a consultant for a year following the sale.
The last couple of years Brad has been busy organizing his archives and doing select photo exhibitions in Los Angeles, Switzerland and in the winter of 2010 at Tabloid Museum, Tokyo. Apple has invited Brad to speak and show is photographs at their Apple Store Tokyo Ginza, New York SoHo and London Regent Street. Brad was honored to speak at various photography classrooms including the prestigious Art Center, Pasadena.
In 2011 Brad released a coffee table book, “Like It Was Yesterday” published by Seventy Seven Press LLC and printed by Toppan of Japan. The limited edition ( 500 copies ) signed and numbered book is available at LEADAPRON Los Angeles, Ralph Lauren Madison Ave, Book Marc New York and Colette Paris. Photographs from the book are highlighted in Purple Magazine’s Summer 2011 issue.
Today Brad is a prolific blogger on his tumblr site posting his iconic seventies photographs and his new modern day pop culture imagery. His blog, www.bradelterman.tumblr.com has over 20,000 followers and growing. Vice Magazine honored Brad as the # 2 Photo Blogger for 2010.
In the fall of 2012 Brad will team up with Swiss artist Marco Pittori for a series of exhibitions in Basel, Zurich and Berlin.
Brad is the co founder of Buzz Foto, a celebrity photo agency that deals in iconic Paparazzi photographs with their emphasis of “Paparazzi As An Art Form”.
Photographers who influenced Brad were Helmut Newton and Ron Galella.
“Brad’s photos provide a rare, often raunchy glimpse into a rock and roll history where it seems Brad is always at the right place at the right time, camera ready. There is even a photo of Dylan posing with a young Deniro at The Roxy in 1976! There might be a better chance of quadruplet albinos being born under a solar eclipse, than a cosmic opportunity like that happening again in a young photographer’s career.” – DiscoSalt 2010