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Rock music has created some of the most exciting and dramatic moments of the last 50 years, but most rock musicians are ordinary looking. Holding a guitar makes people look more interesting, and it's possible to dress people up in striking clothes. A few musicians do have a certain style that makes particularly striking, and some manage to look very silly. But as with photographs of philosophers, one wonders what a photograph of a rock musician could capture about their work. Photographs for fans are fine: fans want to have pictures to put up on their walls. But can photographs of these musicians be anything more than that? This 300-page book of pictures by Olaf Heine suggests not. Most readers will recognize some of the stars here, and may be interested in them because of the name recognition: Iggy Pop and Chris Martin have many pictures of them. Iggy Pop has a great face and a remarkable body, so any picture of him captures one's attention, while Chris Martin is entirely unremarkable. There are images of Henry Rollins, Kurt Cobain and Nick Cave, and they are immediately recognizable. The pictures of Sting are highly posed, and they don't make him seem any more interesting. There are not many pictures here that do more than reproduce rock cliché, but occasionally there are moments of brilliance. There's a great image of the band "The Brood," with the camera resting on the ground, and the four guys in the middle of the picture they stand some distance from the camera, wearing their dark shades, leather coats and blue jeans. What makes the image so wonderful are the two dogs on either side of the band, much closer to the camera, appearing as giants. They stare into the lens, their tongues hanging out -- it must have been hot. It is both eerie and funny. Unfortunately, few images in the book manage to match this one; many are just uninteresting or are entirely stanadard. The other images that stand out here are not of people at all, but of musical equipment and buildings. His pictures of beaten up guitar amps, guitar pedals, and drums are really the best in the book, with great composition and a lovely simplicity.
Link: Olaf Heine web page
© 2011 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York
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