PBS’ Icon: Music Through The Lens is a new six-part docuseries about music photography produced and directed by Dick Carruthers that debuted this past Friday (7/16) and continues with its second episode this coming Friday (7/23). The synopsis reads:
Featuring irreverent interviews with some of the most famous music photographers, musicians, gallerists, music journalists and AKG C414 XLII studio microphone social commentators, ICON: MUSIC THROUGH THE LENS is an eye-opening thrill ride that captures what it was like on both sides of the camera when the most recognizable images in history were taken. Via studio portraits, record sleeves, coffee table books, along with magazine photo shoots, fine art, and images taken at live shows and exhibitions, viewers will learn about the origins of these enduring, iconic images and the future of music photography.
[…] Photographers interviewed include industry legends Jill Furmanovsky, Mick Rock, Danny Clinch, Michael Zagaris, Bruce Talamon, Kevin Westenberg, Terry O’Neill, Kevin Cummins, Bob Gruen, Rachael Wright, Deborah Feingold, Rankin, Laura Levine, Baron Wolman, Neal Preston, Janette Beckman, Roger Sargent, Pooneh Ghana, Christie Goodwin, Albert Watson and Lynn Goldsmith.
Sharing eye-opening insights from a musician’s viewpoint are Josh Homme (Queens of The Stone Age), Ziggy Marley, Lars Ulrich, (Metallica), Brett Anderson (Suede), Alice Cooper, Craig David, Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Zara Larsson, Stefflon Don, Sharleen Spiteri (Texas), Nicky Wire (Manic Street Preachers), Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys), Julian Lennon and Dizzee Rascal.
Episode two, “On the Road,” includes a portion about CBGB and the original ’70s punk era, and we’re premiering a clip of that portion featuring photographers David Godlis and Bob Gruen talking about the early days of capturing bands like the Ramones, Dead Boys, The Talking Heads, Blondie, and more, and it features tons of old photos from the era. Watch below.
Episode two also features stories from photographers who went on tour with such pioneering rock bands as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and The Who, as well as bits about photographers’ relationships with Oasis, Metallica, U2, Ed Sheeran and Courtney Barnett, and a section on photographer Jim Marshall and the origins of the “Three Songs, No Flash” rule.
Full upcoming episode schedule with descriptions of each episode below.
Episode One – “On Camera” (Friday, July 16, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET)
What makes an image iconic? Episode One explores how photographic images of Snoop Dogg, Bob Dylan and Madonna influence perceptions and how they communicate, through themes of interaction, technical skill, occasional luck and cultural impact. The episode goes back to Robert Johnson to find the genesis of music photographs that demonstrate the incredible power of a frozen moment in time. Other highlights include Kevin Cummins on Joy Division, Gered Mankowitz on Jimi Hendrix and Rachael Wright on Billie Eilish trying not to be beautiful.
Episode Two – “On the Road” (Friday, July 23, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET)
On stage, backstage, on the tour bus—from the earliest days of live performance to the modern-day, visually striking live music photographs have captured moments of pure magic and created era-defining imagery. Episode Two features touring stories from early trailblazers who went on the road with artists such as Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and The Who, mixed with tales from the punk era of CGBGs, the Clash and the Sex Pistols. The episode also explores photographers’ relationships with Oasis, Metallica, U2, Ed Sheeran and Courtney Barnett, plus special sections on music photography legend Jim Marshall and the origins of the “Three Songs, No Flash” rule.
Episode Three – “On the Record” (Friday, July 30, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET)
The photography of record sleeves from jazz and early rock ’n’ roll is analyzed and explored, from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to the highly stylized and conceptual imagery on albums by Blur and Dizzee Rascal. Themes of nostalgia, resonance and association run through the superb stories of classic album covers by the Jam, Lou Reed, Thin Lizzy, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Joy Division and Crosby Stills and Nash. Highlights include Lynn Goldsmith on Patti Smith’s Horses, Jonathan Mannion on Jay-Z and DMX, and Elliott Landy on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline.
Episode Four – “On the Cover” (Friday, August 6, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET)
Music magazines played a pivotal role in elevating music photography to iconic status, providing a visual context for some of the world’s greatest bands and their music. This episode explores the legacy of the early covers of Rolling Stone, Creem, NME, Mojo and Q. Journalists, musicians and publicists discuss the enduring appeal and importance of the printed page, with music photographers who shot many of the most iconic fronts covers telling some touching, scandalous and never-heard-before stories about these images. Highlights include Chalkie Davies’ story of how Elton John hoped to use an NME magazine cover to come out, a young Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger with a leopard and the Stone Roses with a lot of paint. The episode also reveals how magazines covered the deaths of David Bowie and Kurt Cobain.
Episode Five – “On the Wall” (Friday, August 13, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET)
The transition of music photography from being considered disposable to a highly collectible and valuable art form is examined by gallerists, publishers, art experts and featured photographers whose body of work now hangs on the walls of the world’s most revered institutions. Tracing the journey from the early days of low-paid assignments to the first gallery exhibitions of music photography and expensive coffee table books, ultimately arriving at individual prints now selling for six and even seven-figure sums, this episode offers insight into this relatively new industry, exploring the relationship between art and commerce. Highlights include the section on Abbey Road – the “Holy Grail” of music photographs – Bruce Talamon on Miles Davis and how he got his Taschen book deal, Chris Floyd on waiting all day for the ‘real’ Paul McCartney, Jill Furmanovsky on her profile of a shy Charlie Watts and Bob Gruen on getting a surprise call from the UK’s National Portrait Gallery.
Episode Six – “On the Net” (Friday, August 13 from 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET)
Where does music photography sit in the contemporary popular culture landscape? The seismic switch from analog to digital is discussed alongside the rise and influence of social media. Episode six ends the series in seeking to determine, through the next generation of music photographers, whether music photography still has a role to play—does it still carry the same importance, and who are the new bearers of the profession?