The images of photographer Roberto Rabanne captured the energy, complexity and beauty in music, fashion and art for more than five decades.
When the Vietnam War was still raging and so was Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York City. Rabanne became a student activist and got a job as an usher at the newly opened Fillmore East on Second Avenue on the Lower East Side, now called the East Village. One day at a soundcheck he decided he had nothing to lose and asked Jimi Hendrix if he could take his picture with his Yashica twin lens reflex. “Sure, man,” the flamboyant guitarist said, and Rabanne began snapping away. Afterwards, Hendrix said, “Wow, man, I like these” and stuck a $100 bill in Rabanne’s hand. He was his first ‘client’ and that was the beginning of his career as a professional photographer.
Rabanne’s photos were first published in magazines like Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Cream and the East Village Other. They ran the gamut of the great bands – from the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver to Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cream, Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and more. Early on, Rabanne befriended Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. The legendary musician gave him priority access and allowed the photographer to do several studies of him and the band. Rabanne was also the only photographer to photograph Studio 27.
“I have a simple philosophy about photography, it’s that the image has to be powerful” explains Rabanne. “And I find this happens when you capture the subject engaging in the non-defensive, unguarded essence that is truly ‘them.’ The picture always has to tell a story, but in doing so, you can break all the rules.”