the original groupies: photographing the boas and bohemia of 60s' electric ladies
In 1969, 'Rolling Stone' published a special issue of photographer Baron Wolman's playful studio portraits of groupies, the pioneering women who found a new kind of liberation alongside some of history’s most monumental musicians. Now, he's exhibiting...
Iconic Images / Baron Wolman
On February 15, 1969, then-upstart magazine Rolling Stone published a "Special Super-Duper Neat Issue" titled "The Groupies and Other Girls." It was the first documentation of these oft-mythologized musical muses (prior to it, the term "groupie" wasn't even really a thing) and immediately crystallized a cultural sensation. Baron Wolman, Rolling Stone's first chief photographer, was granted unprecedented access to some of the era's most iconoclastic musicians like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead, but he was also the first person to turn his lens on the women alongside them. While these men were creating the art that shaped one of history's most transformative decades, groupies were rewriting codes of style, sexual expression, and self-liberation.
After having been collected and published as a photo book last year, Wolman's Forever Young:Groupies and Other Electric Ladies is presently on view at Toronto's Charlotte Hale and Associates through the end of May as a part of the Contact Photography Festival. "I had great affection for every one of the women I photographed: I learned about their lives, their aspirations. I didn't hit on any of them," Wolman writes in its catalogue. "I wanted to share what they were doing with the world."
Wolman's images capture some of history's most style savvy musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, but his studio portraits of women like Karen Seltenrich and I'm With the Band author Pamela Des Barres demonstrate how groupies used clothing as a form of self-expression — literally fashioning a new kind of liberated woman. "The thing I noticed immediately about these women was that they had spent a lot of time putting themselves together in ways that were so creative, you couldn't believe it," Wolman told The New York Times. "They mixed together outfits of the day with things from antique clothing stores to create a real vision. They weren't appearing half-naked to get the men's attention. They were dressing up to put on a show."
"Forever Young: Groupies and Other Electric Ladies" is on view at Charlotte Hale & Associates through May 31, 2016.
Text Emily Manning
Images courtesy Iconic Images / Baron Wolman