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Goldsmith’s photography transcends rock-n-roll label

Lynn Goldsmith said she didn't pursue rock 'n' roll photography, but became famous for pictures, like that of Jim Morrison, right.
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Lynn Goldsmith had her first photo published when she was 15. The image was of four pairs of boots and appeared on the cover of the Miami Herald.

The year was 1964 and Goldsmith was taking pictures of the art-deco carpet in a Miami hotel, when in walked four guys from England. But it wasn’t the group’s shaggy hair and tweed suits that caught her eye, it was the boots they wore.

The boots were the same cowboy-style boots she’d seen on James Brown.



The guys, it turns out, were the Beatles, in Miami to make the second of their three historic Ed Sullivan show appearances that year.

Goldsmith had always seen the Beatles as a goody-two-shoes Brit band before she saw them walk into that Miami hotel. But, she says, “I saw the shoes and I knew that under those tweedy little suits were the hearts of rock ‘n’ roll.”



For Goldsmith, that photo of the Beatles’ shoes was the start in a long photography career that includes almost every big name in popular music ” from Bono to Bob Dylan to David Bowie to the Beastie Boys .

Goldsmith worked in rock ‘n’ roll through the 70s and 80s, when journalists and photographers were granted “all-access passes.”

Strangely, Goldsmith said she never wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll photographer.

“It’s not like I pursued making rock ‘n’ roll pictures,” she said. “I pursued making pictures.”

And in fact, once she became known as a rock ‘n’ roll photographer, the label annoyed her.

“(The rock ‘n’ roll label) bothered me when I was younger, because of a lot of the other work that I did. And I felt the rock ‘n’ roll title was a pejorative one,” she said recently, standing among images of flowers and superhero dolls in her Basalt gallery. They are anything but rock ‘n’ roll photos.

“I’m not into labels in the first place,” she continued, arguing that labels limit the ways in which people think about one another. “I was resentful of being called anything, even a photographer.”

But the rock label was especially hard to take. “Rock ‘n’ roll was considered ‘OK, someone’s out there with a camera.'”

“To me,” she said, “an artist is an artist.”

Goldsmith must have a million stories that would be great in print. She spent many intimate hours and days with celebrity musicians ” a kneeling Bono held her hand and lead her in prayer, Ringo Starr demanded her jacket and walked out when she refused, and she chronicled Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 “Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour” for her photo book “Springsteen: Access All Areas.”

She doubtless has dozens of stories journalists and rock ‘n’ roll fans would drool over.

But stories of Goldsmith hanging out with the biggest rock musicians are difficult to pry from her lips.

She said she doesn’t like talking about herself. But there is something else that keeps her from spewing forth about hanging out with celebrity friends.

She’s not really that impressed with them.

“I don’t think I’m hanging out with anybody, I think people are hanging out with me,” she said.

“The only time I’ve really felt privilege to be there was at a time when someone like Miles Davis starts to play,” she said, which is a true story.

“I don’t mix up the message with the messenger.”

Some beautiful art and music is made by ugly people, she said.

People in the Roaring Fork Valley will have a chance to see a bit of what Goldsmith’s work and life in the upcoming show “Rock Legends” at the Lynn Goldsmith Gallery in Basalt next week.

Goldsmith will show her work and the work of other ’60s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll photographers, including Baron Wolman (Rolling Stone magazine’s first chief photographer), Elliott Landy (official Woodstock photographer), Herb Greene (Grateful Dead photographer), and Gered Mankowitz (London’s first Melody Maker photographer).

The show will also feature the work of Joel Brodsky who took the famous photo of Jim Morrison with his arms outstretched, stone-faced, and reportedly very drunk.

Goldsmith decided to do a rock ‘n’ roll show after doing a party for her book “PhotoDiary” (a rock ‘n’ roll photo book) last summer. Two hours after the party was supposed to have ended, Goldsmith was still trying to get people to leave, which she attributed to the rock ‘n’ roll theme.

She’d like to have the same good time at the opening reception next week.

“Let’s see if a rock ‘n’ roll party can get some fun happening,” she said.

“Rock Legends” will open with a reception from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at the Lynn Goldsmith Gallery, 40 Sunset Drive in Basalt.


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