10 Groundbreaking Celebrity and Music Photographers

Brad Elterman's photograph Ali and the Sea of Faces
Brad Elterman's photograph Ali and the Sea of Faces
© Brad Elterman

Right now, there are at least three music-themed photo exhibits going on in L.A., and a few celebrity-themed ones, too. Peter Fetterman Gallery is showing "Forever Young: The Art of Music Photography" through Sept. 8, while Kana Manglapus Projects is exhibiting "Factory 77" through Sept. 10, featuring images by local celebrity photographer Brad Elterman. And, of course, the Annenberg Space for Photography through Oct. 7 is giving us "Who Shot Rock & Roll" -- an exhibit that's been traveling around for a few years, with an accompanying book published in 2009.

But it doesn't stop there. The Getty Center is exhibiting "Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity" and "Herb Ritts: L.A. Style," both on view through Sept. 2. Meanwhile, Mr. Musichead Gallery is all about showcasing art by and about musicians, including photography -- all the time.

With such a plethora of photo shows about musicians and celebrities happening right now, it can be hard to tell which photographers stand out, and why. We combed through all the exhibits to find some of the best photographers, and discovered a few who weren't in any shows, even though they deserved to be. Here are 10 of the biggest vanguards in celebrity and music photography.

Kid With Camera (David Waldman)
Kid With Camera (David Waldman)

10. David Waldman, aka Kid With Camera

Over a decade ago, Toronto-based photographer David Waldman started taking pictures for his black-and-white zine, Kid With Camera. As one of the first consistent and prolific photo-bloggers, Waldman didn't have the luxury of Wordpress or Movable Type, so he hand-coded hundreds of HTML pages for his accompanying website with the same name. Soon, Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph started buying ads, and Waldman found himself going from poor art student to professional photographer. He's since captured images of nearly 1,000 bands, and has created album art and promo pics for groups like Austra. Meanwhile, his recent solo exhibition at the NXNE festival in Toronto featured The Exhibition About You: The Audience. From petty fights at shows to the handmade goods on merchandise tables, Walman says, "I photographed everything I saw. ... I thought it was gonzo to include these observations." Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.

Elterman's All the Right Ingredients for a Sellable Photograph!
Elterman's All the Right Ingredients for a Sellable Photograph!
© Brad Elterman

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9. Brad Elterman

Another kid with a camera, Brad Elterman, recalls, "Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I would borrow my parents' car every day and drive over Coldwater Canyon to discover the magic of the Sunset Strip and '70s pop culture." As a man with a camera, Elterman now has a portfolio of pictures with subjects ranging from John Lennon to Bob Dylan and Madonna to Muhammed Ali. These candid snapshots of musicians and celebrities reflect Elterman's knack of being in the right place at the right time, consistently capturing candid images of celebrities just being themselves.


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