David Gahr's THE FACE OF FOLK MUSIC: Essential Portraits from the American Folk Music Revival | David Gahr, American Photographer | Iconic Images of the Folk, Jazz, Blues, Songwriters, Artists, and Writers of the Second Half of the 20th Century

David Gahr’s THE FACE OF FOLK MUSIC: Essential Portraits from the American Folk Music Revival

Posted by: on December 5, 2013


With over 500 essential images of the American Folk Music Revival of the 1950s and 1960s, David Gahr’s The Face of Folk Music (1968) established the photographer as a visual virtuoso and a recognizable influence in any consideration of popular music photography.

The Face of Folk Music is the image bible of the rise of the American musical counterculture in the late 20th century and, though out of print, coveted by collectors. Gahr’s defining portraits of the folk revival mavericks Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Odetta, Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, both Woody Guthrie and Arlo Guthrie,  Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen,  and so many more, some sadly forgotten, the scholars, song collectors, and record producers like Charles Seeger, Alan Lomax, Moe Asch, Irwin Silber, and Harry Smith, and vital visual documentation from the epicenters of the folk movement in New York’s Greenwich Village  and the historic Newport Folk Festivals from 1959 and throughout the 1960s are historic record through a master’s lens.

The folk and blues images contained in The Face of Folk Music and Gahr’s photographic legacy resonate deeply in the culture in 2013 for a whole new generation of folk music fans with the chart success of the contemporary folk music of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers, in the cinema directors the Coen Brothers’ latest, the ’60s-era Greenwich Village folk noir film, Inside Llewyn Davis (December 2013), on the page, Jonathan Lethem’s critically praised Greenwich Village novel, Dissident Gardens (2013), as well as the enduring folk icon Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour into the first half of the new century with as much cultural impact as the musical poet created in the 1960s.

Praise for David Gahr and The Face of Folk Music:

“Irascible as the day was long, David Gahr was the greatest music photographers of the last 5 decades, I’d say. He was discovered by the gruff and difficult Moses Asch, head of Folkways Records, who taught David to look for the truth behind the performer. David’s profane love of his work, … and hatred for phoniness in all its manifestations…was infectious, and he managed to see the creative spark as it occurred. Compare the photos of others who worked at the same spots and you’ll see what I mean. David’s pictures are always superior because both David’s and his subjects’s characters shine through”  – Richard Carlin,  author and scholar, World of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways, 2008; Country Music: The People, Place, and Moments that Shaped the Country Sound, 2006

The Face of Folk Musicis a classic, it’s a crime that it is out of print. There are many other well-known music photographers but David Gahr was the king.  He was the first “rock” photographer. Everyone of his images embodies his passion, irreverence, and integrity, and seem to whisper his favorite phrase, “Fuck’ em” – Josh Cheuse, photographer, Rockers Galore, Stussy, 2012

“Gahr spent a lifetime capturing the essence of rock and roll–as well as folk, blues, and jazz. He was one of Bob Dylan’s favorite photographers because, as is well documented, Dylan can’t stand phonies (Dylan asked the seventy-nine-year-old photographer to shoot his thirty-first studio album, “Love and Theft” when most musicians look to engage the hottest young photographer. Gahr’s photographers of Dylan go back to the 1963 Newport Folk Festival.) Andre Kertesz was Gahr’s favorite photographer. Gahr used the same darkroom assistant as Walker Evans. There are some photographers who are hacks, but the best, like Gahr, stand proudly in a long line of distinguished photojournalists and art photographers.” – from curator and author Gail Buckland’s Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, Knopf, 2009

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