Picture perfect

Rock Faces
November 26, 2004

Rock Faces is a collection of rock music photographs ranging from Marianne Faithfull taken by Gered Mankowitz in 1964 to Avril Lavigne taken by Kevin Westenberg in 2003. It showcases the iconic images of the most feted rock superstars of the past 40 years shot by 12 of the most famous music photographers.

The 12 sections of the book display wonderfully the different personalities of the photographers. For example, Henry Diltz's chapter captures his belief that behind the divine aura of rock stars there are normal people. There is his shot of Michael Jackson aged nine, in which only the eyes bear any resemblance to the infamous face of today; the picture could almost be a school identity photo. His photo of Paul and Linda McCartney looks like nothing so much as a well-judged holiday shot.

Claude Gassian, by contrast, specialises in shots of the stars after they have faded. But rather than demeaning or ridiculing them, his images assure the viewer that while the face and body may have changed, the rock'n'roll spirit of yesteryear lives on. The highlights, for me, are Gassian's individual shots of the Rolling Stones in the Nineties.

Almost every page reveals a gem - be it of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell or Chris Martin. A gorgeous and expansive mixture of technicolour and black-and-white images adds to the book's pleasure. While the photos are by no means new, they gain fresh interest from the accompanying text by Oliver Craske, which is perfectly judged. Rather than giving potted biographies of the featured photographers, the text focuses on the photographers' most fascinating anecdotes about their subjects.

Underlying the book is the view that despite all the stories of obnoxious habits, infighting and immature squabbles, rock stars really are as special as we always believed. My only regret is the absence of both Elvis Presley and The Verve. This slight reservation apart, Rock Faces is a visual high for music lovers from beginning to end.

Toby Sprigings is a film and media critic.

Rock Faces

Author - Oliver Craske
Publisher - RotoVision
Pages - 160
Price - £19.99
ISBN - 2 88046 781 0

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