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Rare rock ‘n’ roll portraits on display in the North Laine

The Crane Kalman Gallery in Brighton is now showing the latest part of the Rockarchive’s 10th Anniversary Collection on its world tour which started in Dubai last summer. Rockarchive has galleries in London, Brighton, Amsterdam, Dubai, Tokyo, New York City and Sydney and boasts over 500 previously unpublished images of rock ‘n’ roll legends.

Rockarchive was founded in 1998 by photographer Jill Furmanovsky who has shot the likes of Oasis, Pink Floyd and Blondie among others. She founded it to ‘present to the public a true portrayal of life in the music business’, and wanted to share her work with ‘the people who would appreciate it most – the fans.’ The Brighton gallery displays a wide range of photo portraits of rock heroes including The Ramones, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Paul Weller, The Clash, Pink Floyd, and The White Stripes among many others.

It is described as the ‘place to find rare iconic images of your favourite rock stars.’ True to its word, every photo subject was immediately recognisable having so widely infiltrated popular culture. The prints are rare which makes it a new way to see such iconic images in a new form and it certainly wasn’t a case of ‘I’ve seen this all before.’

In fact, that is the point of Rockarchive – the pictures are rare and previously unpublished, making them all the more scrumptious. The photographs themselves are of a fantastic quality and are done by distinguished rock and roll photographers (Rockarchive publishes the work of over 50 photographers, including Mick Rock, Ray Stevenson, Kevin Cummins and Jill Furmanovsky herself). They all wholly promote the essence of rock stardom while at the same time bringing it down to earth.

The photographers, mesmerised by and drawn into the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that they pictured, often became friends with the rock stars. This allows a strong element of intimacy to break through the images, which then transfers to us, the ordinary viewers. The photographers manage to capture an honest portrayal of the subjects, who are mere humans after all, even though popular culture has defined their status as legends.

Most striking are images of The Specials captured in a moment of exuberant performance, in which you can imagine yourself backstage, hearing the song and dancing to your heart’s content. Elsewhere, Nirvana are captured sitting down, in a rare calm moment – as if three friends are just hanging out.

While the photographers capture a piece of cultural history in a flash of a camera, viewers and fans can pop in and immerse themselves in childhood dreams of rock stardom or stand in awe at the exceptional portrayals in front of them. All prints are to buy, and actually start at a modest price of £225, which allows ‘normal’, non-legendary people to have a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history and perhaps keep on dreaming, though unfortunately I doubt that our student loans could stretch this far.

Rockarchive runs until the 15th of February, at the Crane Kalman gallery, 38 Kensington Gardens in the North Laine. Entrance is free.

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