Bob Gruen standing in front of photos of several rockstars including John Lennon and Johnny Rotten at the Kelowna Art Lovers Gallery in the Delta Grand Hotel on Wednesday. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)

Iconic rock photographer Bob Gruen talks life, photography, rock ‘n’ roll

You may not be familiar with his name, but you’re surely familiar with his work

Bob Gruen was there—in almost every sense of the word when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll.

From John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, you can find Gruen’s photographs documenting some of the most important people—and moments—in rock ‘n’ roll history.

“I get around,” he said modestly.

“I learned photography from my mother. When I was very little, about four or five-years-old—too big to go to sleep early but too little to run around the house—she took me into the darkroom. My mom was an attorney, photography was her hobby. She liked to develop and print her own pictures, so she taught me when I was very little. I really took to it.”

Gruen was given his first camera when he was eight-years-old, a Brownie Hawkeye. It was a very simple box camera, but he said it became his life.

At 25-years-old, all Gruen needed was a push to really kick his career off—quite literally.

“A friend of mine suggested we go see Ike and Tina Turner. I brought my camera; I took some pictures. I got some really good pictures that night but one that was amazing. Tina was dancing while a strobe light was flashing and it captured five or six different images in the one photograph,” said Gruen.

“A couple of days later I happened to go to another Ike and Tina show and I brought the pictures with me to show my friends. As we were walking out, one of my friends saw Ike Turner walking from one dressing room to another and pushed me in front of Ike and said, ‘show Ike the pictures.’ He pushed me into the rest of my life.”

The Turners liked the pictures and nine months later, it was Gruen’s photo on the front of their album. This opened a “whole new world” for Gruen.

“A few years after Ike and Tina, by that time I had taken pictures of Elton John, Larry Coryell, Jackie Lomax, and all kinds of people. I was included in the first book of rock ‘n’ roll photography called The Photography of Rock,” he said.

“The writer who was doing the biographies of the photographers in the book was doing an interview with John (Lennon) and Yoko (Ono) and he asked me to come along and take pictures for them.”

This was the beginning of a fruitful friendship between the three, with Gruen taking several iconic photos of the duo, including the photos in the album art for Sometime in New York City.

Gruen is still in contact with Yoko to this day.

Bob Gruen was there, but now, he’s here in the Okanagan.

Gruen is in Kelowna for the next few days in support of his exhibit which is being shown at the Kelowna Art Lover’s Gallery, which is offering rock lovers the chance to view—or buy—a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history.

“This is not just a really fun exhibit to see, but everything here is for sale,” said Gruen. “It’s a great investment because art like this is guaranteed to go up in value. It’s art that you can live with. It’s not a certificate that you put in a box and hope nobody runs off with, but something you like and put on your wall and see every day.”

Gruen’s exhibit will be on display at the gallery until Aug. 14.


@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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