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Holly Stephey talks to Brad Elterman,

  • Broadcast in Pop Culture
Holly Stephey

Holly Stephey


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 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 70s 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, & stowed away his cameras and 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. From the platinum tinted shag hairdos of teenage glam rockers to the bare breasted shenanigans of coked-up south Cali 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.  Unlike the cruelty of today’s paparazzi images, 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.