In 1967, a 21-year-old journalist named Jann Wenner gathered some friends and started the revolutionary rock music publication Rolling Stone, a newsprint magazine that captured the era and defined it in print and pictures. Among the friends that Wenner recruited for the project was Wolman, who had been working as a freelance photographer for magazines like Life and Look. Wolman was hired as the first chief photographer for Rolling Stone.
During his tenure at Rolling Stone, Wolman’s lens captured the icons of 1960s rock and pop, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, the Who, and many others. Wolman’s unique access to his subjects, combined with his keen eye, gave his photographs an up-close-and-personal quality that was rare and unprecedented.
“The chance to be a part of the first days of Rolling Stone came out of the blue,” Wolman says. “I didn't know to what I was agreeing when Jann [Wenner] asked me to join the original staff as the photographer. It turned out to be the perfect fit. It released the latent creative forces as a photographer I didn't know I had, and working with the magazine came to define my career. I loved the music and the musicians and always tried to honor them and respectfully show them in the best possible light. The majority of my photographic output is music-related, although my curiosity about life led me onto many other subjects.”
Born in Columbus, Ohio on June 25, 1937, Baron Wolman became interested in photography while serving in the Army as a counter-intelligence officer in Berlin. There, Wolman sold his first photo essay for publication, a story about life behind the then-new Berlin Wall. After his discharge from the military, he moved to California to pursue a career as a photojournalist.
During Wolman’s fast-paced tenure at Rolling Stone, his lens captured the icons of 1960s rock and pop: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison and many more. Wolman’s unique access to his subjects, combined with his keen eye, gave his photos an intimate, direct and up-close-and-personal quality that was rare and unprecedented.
“I see myself as a kind of voyeur,” Wolman said. “I’m happiest when I’m invisible and watching. …I’m a chameleon and can adapt myself to the situation, and that, to me, is one of the gifts that I was given naturally and that’s how you get honest pictures.”
Wolman left Rolling Stone in late 1970, going on to start his own fashion magazine, Rags, and to become a pilot in order to hone his skills as an aerial photographer. He later founded Squarebooks Publishing and worked on numerous and diverse photography projects, including the 2011 book Every Picture Tells a Story…Baron Wolman: The Rolling Stone Years.
“I look at life like this huge buffet table,” said Wolman. “And I’m not going to stop at the appetizers. I want to eat from the whole table. If you do that, you pay the price in some way, but you get to taste every flavor. …I have had such a cool life.”
All photos are from the Collection of Baron Wolman
We are honored to create this exhibit with legendary photographer Baron Wolman; his stories and legacy from behind the lens will live on to impact fans of all generations. His body of work will be celebrated both inside the museum and digitally. It is through his images that we are reminded of the power of rock & roll and we thank him for sharing his stories and work with us.
We send our warm wishes to Baron and his loved ones during this difficult time. The Facebook post below is from his personal account, written as his public farewell due to a terminal illness.
1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44114