‘fanzine’ celebrates rock goddesses past and present
From Joan Jett and The Runaways to Arrow de Wilde and Dani Miller, see images from photographer Brad Elterman's latest zine.
Photo by Brad Elterman.
Brad Elterman began photographing rock stars in the 70s, but his run-in with a certain British icon still stands out amongst his colorful backstage memories of Leonard Cohen and Debbie Harry at the Rainbow and Whiskey a Go Go. David Bowie was recording in LA at Cherokee Studios, when Elterman decided to cut class in the hopes of photographing “the most famous rock star on the planet.” With some helpful insight that Bowie would leave at 6 o’clock in the morning, tapes in hand, an 18-year-old Elterman borrowed his brother’s camera and headed down to Fairfax to snap a couple of pictures. It was a moment that would solidify him as one of rock and roll’s most legendary photographers.
“This whole episode of him walking to the car was probably 40 seconds. I took maybe four pictures, but it felt like it went on forever and ever,” he tells i-D over the phone from LA. “He was styled so beautifully—he had the cap on, this beautiful orange sweater that he was wearing inside-out. The tag was on the back. Such elegance, such grace... Then he got in the car and I never saw him again. It was just like that. But I had more than a picture. I had a dream. That I could take these pictures of rock stars and publish them.”
Now in his 60s, though he insists he’s still “just a kid with a camera,” the photographer will release the second issue of his FANZINE, influenced by punk music mags of yore like Rock Scene and Music Life that published his deliciously candid photos over 40 years ago. The publication celebrates rock goddesses past and present. It’s as much inspired by Elterman’s ultimate muse Joan Jett and The Runaways as it is contemporary rockers and eccentric personalities like Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde and Surfbort’s Dani Miller.
Let’s talk about the latest issue of FANZINE. Was there a particular moment when you realized that you wanted to focus on rock goddesses for this issue?
I was reminiscing a lot about Rock Scene magazine and Rock Scene was kind of like the coolest rock magazine. Sometimes it came out two times a year, three times, four times, it was very erratic and it was published by Richard Robinson and Lisa Robinson in New York. It was just pages and pages of backstage rock stars. Lots of candid photos and that’s kind of where I got the idea. I wanted to do something similar to Rock Scene.
When I look back at my career, my greatest muse was Joan Jett. I was right there when The Runaways were put together and it was really exciting to have girls with guitars. Magazines in Japan like Music Life had never seen anything like this before. I’m photographing other women with guitars now—other girl bands—and I love connecting the dots between them. I just thought it was a good fit with Arrow [de Wilde], and it was love at first sight when I first met Dani Miller.
You were able to feature some photos taken in New York in this issue too. I love the one of Dani where she’s standing in the middle of the street holding up traffic.
Right, I was in New York and the timing was just perfect. I used my little point-and-shoot and I used a point-and-shoot in the 70s. We went right around Houston Street, where Katz’s Deli is and we sure got a lot of looks between the two of us. We definitely created some buzz there in Lower Manhattan. And for all intents and purposes that could be the center of the Earth. (laughs). Some people will say it’s 57th and Fifth. It’s 125th street or down at the tip of the island. But standing in front of Katz’s is pretty much the center of the Earth for me.
Who are some of the other new faces that we see here and what is it about them that is so fun to photograph?
Well, it’s all a visual thing. I photographed Arrow a few years ago when she was just starting out. I liked her stage presence and loved the theatrics. I thought the blood was great. I was a huge fan of Alice Cooper. So, she just has this great vibe and style, great musician, and you know, I’ve always stayed in touch with Cherie Currie, the lead singer of The Runaways. We went back to the old Sugar Shack together, a few months ago and that was where she was discovered by Kim Fowley, 40 some odd years ago. It’s a pizza place now, but we went back and reminisced. And I had this idea to put the two of them together. I thought it would make a cool picture and I thought it would work. She’s very compelling. Dani is very compelling... I’ve always loved Sunflower Bean.
I love fashion and styling the young people, which is something we never even thought of back in 1977. Joan had the safety pin and she put it in her zipper and she had razor blades. It was all self-styled.
More and more modern editorials try to channel that look now. You mentioned that Joan was your ultimate muse. What was it about her?
Yeah, they channel that look from 1977 and I find that so interesting because for me, it’s all coming full circle where you’ve got fashion brands embracing the 70s. Joanie was really charismatic. She was unique. It was real. She was a little bit shy, like me, and I was just a kid with a camera and something compelled me to make these pictures. And this was happening in my own backyard.
These magazines in Japan and Holland and Poster magazine in Sweden, they didn’t have a clue what was going on in LA and I was kind of like a chronologer. Music Life started to publish them and they liked the fact that they were candid. It wasn’t just Joan holding a guitar. I did take pictures of her on stage, but to me, anyone could do that.
A lot of the photos you included are candid shots, like Joan and Sandy eating French fries or Dani with her slice of pizza… what pulls you to these moments?
That was a real candid shot, Joan and Sandy eating French fries. It’s a Fellini-esque style, I think. I adored La Dolce Vita. It’s life. It’s real, not staged. It’s just the way it happened. And there was just something really beautiful about that moment. It’s hard to explain what it is—life imitating art. I was thinking about Joan and Sandy when I was there in lower Manhattan with Dani. There’s just something really elegant in someone eating a slice of pizza and it’s messy, and that’s fine. I have pictures of one of the guys from KISS eating an ice cream bar and somebody said, "Oh my god, you’ve got photos of the guys from KISS eating ice cream? Nobody has this picture."
You also have the backstage section in FANZINE—is there a particular backstage moment that really stands out to you?
Well, I sure liked this thing with Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen with my friend Martine Getty is pretty cool. And he’s wearing a Chateau Marmont t-shirt, if you can believe it. I love Leonard and I love the two party crashers. The shot of Joan with Debbie is epic. I always tell these young photographers, "Get pictures of two rock stars together!" And people just go gaga over them. You know?
FANZINE is available for purchase at Printed Matter.