Allan Tannenbaum, owner of SoHo Blues in New York City, is one of the foremost music photographers of his generation. Though Tannenbaum is a seasoned international photojournalist with an extremely broad portfolio, he is best known for his work documenting New York City’s nightlife and music scene in the heady days of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Tannenbaum was there at the crossroads of the British Invasion, punk and New Wave, and New York City was the epicenter of this convergence. Tannenbaum was shooting for the SoHo News at the time, capturing the most important acts of the era as they blazed their way through the local clubs: the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, just to name a few, as well as a plethora of jazz and reggae acts.
Tannenbaum’s photography of this era became iconic, including the portrait work he did with John Lennon during the release of Double Fantasy in 1980, and shortly before Lennon was murdered that cold, bleak December day.
For Tannenbaum, the presentation is just as important as getting the capture right. His work has been featured in exhibitions across Europe and the U.S., and the medium gets the same care and detail as the message.
Tannenbaum’s most recent exhibition, the printing of which was sponsored by LexJet and Canon U.S.A., opened at Mr Musichead on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles on June 27 and runs through September 13. As the name implies, Mr Musichead is a gallery that focuses on music photography and art. The gallery’s tag is Where Music Meets Art.
“It’s the most comprehensive exhibition of my work concentrating on music. I have had a lot of exhibitions that have been more general about life in New York City in the ’70s, but this really focuses on music,” explains Tannenbaum. “The gallery is only about music and this exhibition is only about music, so it’s unique, diverse in its content and runs the gamut of the music scene.”
Tannenbaum and Mr Musichead’s owner, Sam Milgrom, sifted through the copious body of work Tannenbaum produced in that era and narrowed it down to about 40 images, which Tannenbaum printed and framed in sizes ranging from 11″ x 14″ to 24″ x 36″.
“We went back and forth on the images. Since that’s the market Sam knows best he was very helpful in choosing which images to showcase,” says Tannenbaum. “For example, one of the images we chose was a concert shot of Iggy Pop, who just did a show in Los Angeles and is popular there. We added a shot I have of him in his hotel room in front of a background I brought with me where I used a ring flash with my Hasselblad; it really pops out at you. I told him that if you’re going to have Iggy, you have to have this one.”
Other musicians featured in the exhibition include Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, John and Yoko Lennon, Keith Richards, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder, Sid Vicious (being arrested) and Sun Ra. In other words, a veritable who’s who among the most influential acts of their day, and for all time, really. The images for the exhibition were printed with Tannenbaum’s Canon iPF6100 on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper 300g.
“The printing went very well, thanks to LexJet and Canon. A few years ago I bought my iPF6100 and iPF8100 from LexJet, and they’re great printers, especially with the Canon Plug-In for Photoshop. In terms of getting a high-quality, nice sized image, and after experimenting with a lot of different papers, I had to come up with a standard: LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin. The galleries like the paper and the finish and it has a surface that is a lot like traditional photo paper,” says Tannenbaum. “One of my philosophies about photography is that it’s important not only to just to take great pictures, but to know how to make the image. The images hold up, even if you’re printing it large, like 30×40. There must be something in the Canon software that compensates so you don’t see any artifacts or degradation in quality at all. It’s a lot easier to compensate in the software than it is in the darkroom. And, the paper is phenomenal. When you tell people they’re digital prints, they can’t believe it. A photographer should be a good printer as well; it’s not just about taking the picture. I really enjoy making prints and seeing them on gallery walls or in people’s homes.”