Thursday, March 11, 2010

deCastellane Gallery opens in Brooklyn with photographs by Rowland Scherman

Hans deCastellane is getting his dream of opening his gallery and his first exhibit will be "the amazing, timeless, pop-culture photography of Rowland Scherman."

You know Roland Scherman. Yes, you do, you just don't know you do right now. But if you're any kind of music lover you know the cover from the seventies of Bob Dylan's greatest hits. Yeah, that one. The blue one with Dylan silhouetted against a spot liht and his frizzy hair looking like a halo. Roland Scherman took that. And he shot images of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Janis Joplin and the Fab Four and...well, you get the picture. He shot pictures of everyone.

Then he dropped off the map for a good thirty years, finally resurfacing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It's an amazing story and his images are even more amazing.

If you're in the NYC area, you have to check this out.

And then below that is an article I wrote on Rowland a few years back.

The de Castellane Gallery is inviting and unpretentious. Its space lends itself nicely to a division of three adjacent spaces. Experience the front gallery–an evolving exhibition of both emerging and established artists. Discover the middle gallery–a more permanent display of featured works from the gallery's roster of talent, with views out to the Atlantic Gardens. Wander to the back studio–a live viewing of Hans’ latest vision and works-in-progress, as he paints under a 15 foot wide skylight.

A photographer presses a shutter release and a person is immortalized. But who immortalizes the photographer?

From Woodstock to the funerals of the Apollo astronauts, and The Beatles to Bobby Kennedy, photojournalist Rowland Scherman chronicled the times, places, and people that had a bearing on today’s world. Then he slipped into obscurity for almost thirty years before resurfacing again, his work eventually shown in an empty storefront in Orleans on Cape Cod.

“Rowland is not a self-promoter,” explained Bob Korn, a master printer in Orleans whose clients include photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Jim Dow. So, when Scherman walked into his business one day with a slide of Bob Dylan, Korn realized Scherman was a “somebody.” But who?

To answer that question, one simply has to look at his body of work composed of images of virtually every person or event that made history in the sixties. But what makes his work so important is that it’s not just a photographic record. Scherman viewed and interpreted the world with a heightened sense of emotion and intelligence and sensibility that enabled him to record the essence of what he was seeing. HIs is an artistic rendering that comes from a personal involvement with the subject, even if the subject is totally unaware of Scherman. So whether it’s Bobby Kennedy in a sea of delegates, or Sammy Davis, Jr. looking into the camera, what the viewer gets is a visceral experience of what was happening at that precise moment when Scherman chose to release the shutter.

Scherman was never a stranger to artistic photography and journalism. His father was promotions director for Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. His uncle, Life photographer and editor, David E. Scherman, got his nephew a job as a summer intern in Life’s darkroom when he was a student at Oberlin.

After college, Scherman followed JFK’s idealistic call to arms and was the first photographer hired by the Peace. Corps. As a freelancer for Life, Scherman received a steady stream of weekly assignments that put him in the middle of the times.

He grabbed a shot of Bob Dylan arriving at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival with a bullwhip slung over his shoulder. He then slipped onstage with his wide-angle lens for an intimate view of these soon-to-be iconic figures.

From the audience he got classic shots of The Beatles. He was as close as from here to there for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech, and he was on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign plane in ‘68.

A classic story of Scherman’s charmed career was how he pushed past backstage security at a Dylan concert to fire off a few frames of Bob Dylan, then marched into an art director’s office at Columbia Records the next day who declared, “That’s the next cover of his album.” That’s the first image Korn saw of Scherman’s—Bob Dylan haloed in a spotlight used on his Greatest Hits album and that won a Grammy in 1967.

A few years later, in 1971, Scherman dropped off the national radar screen, embarking on an odyssey that seemed the perfect example a person of privilege who doesn’t know the value of what’s been given him. Divorced and disillusioned with the United States, he turned down offers to cover the Vietnam War and work for Playboy and instead went to England where he ended up herding sheep in Wales.

He did return once, in the early ‘80s, to the Life offices, but everything had changed. “They wanted to see my work,” he said, “and I told them all my work was in their magazine. But that didn’t matter.” He hadn’t done the one thing that he’d been doing for so many other people. He hadn’t promoted himself. “I thought I had left a bigger footprint,” he said about the rejection.

So Scherman moved to Birmingham, Alabama, shot products for catalogs, and worked on two photo projects: One documenting Highway 11 and the other photographing Elvis Presley fans. And he opened a bar. When a long-term relationship ended and remembering stories of his parents vacationing on Cape Cod, Scherman headed here in 2000.

Scherman says that the one thing he desires is the recognition of his peers. And he may just get it, with the help of Korn and Meri and Dave Hartford, owners of Artworks Framing Gallery in Orleans. They’ve established The Rowland Scherman Project to promote Scherman’s work to galleries and museums. Korn met with the curators for four museums associated with the Smithsonian and, in his words, they were blown away by the imagery. “They wanted to know, ‘Who is this guy?’”, Korn relates. “They were amazed that his work has gone unnoticed for all these years.”

Scherman laughs that the work he used to do with a camera and natural light is now done with five assistants and a truckload of lights. So, now he’s shooting portraits on the Cape. “In retrospect, portraits are what I’ve always done. They’re what I can do. It’s second nature to me.”

And he’s talking to groups about his work and his life. People see my work and start crying. They say, ‘This is the story of my life,’”, he says. “Maybe the sixties are becoming…”—and here he reaches for the word—and finally settles on “fashionable.”

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