Growing up, Susan Sandler lived to listen to rock ’n’ roll music and go to concerts. Her collection of limited-edition prints was captured by Midwestern photographers who had access to the front and back stages; their close relationships with the artists produced very special, candid images. You can now shop her selection of signed, museum-quality prints of music’s biggest legends here exclusively on Viyet.
These images are actually part of a bigger collection of digital images of which you hold the rights. Can you tell us the story on how you became interested in rock ’n’ roll photography?
I grew up in a medium-size town in the Midwest in the ’70s and ’80s and lived to listen to rock ’n’ roll music, buy albums and CDs, and go to live concerts. When I was presented with an opportunity to help launch a new business around the history of rock ’n’ roll in photos, I was hooked. The magnetism of these images taken during live performances and backstage in Midwestern venues revived my passion for these artists, the music, and the power of rock ’n’ roll to communicate to any age group.
Can you tell us a little about the group of photographers and artists who are featured in this consignment? How did these photographers gain access to these artists?
These professional photographers, including Leni Sinclair and Charlie Auringer from Detroit, Michigan, and Rich Zimmermann from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, developed close relationships with bands and musical artists across a period of time from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since the archive was developed, we’ve had requests for copies of images from artists and their families, such as Ziggy Marley. The photographers are well-known in their local communities and regions, and some have achieved national and international recognition for their work with some of the greatest bands in the world, including The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.
What captivated you about their work?
This style of photography strikes me as extremely perceptive, and very accessible at the same time. One senses that the photographer is a fan of the music, and is paying attention to the nuances of each performance, rather than looking only to capture the perfect shot. There is a subjectivity to this collection that I really appreciate and enjoy.
Do you think the fact that these images came from the Midwest make them more unique compared to “famous” images that have been captured in bigger shows in those aforementioned cities?
Yes, these independent photographers had great access to the front and back stages of Midwestern venues during the important rock ’n’ roll tours that traveled around the country. They were not hired by the band or the label, and sold their images to area newspapers and magazines. Their close relationships with the artists often produced very special and unique images, such as one that I hang in my home taken the night that the rock star Bob Seger met a young, emerging artist named Bruce Springsteen during his first visit to Detroit’s Cobo Hall.
You have such a great eye for imagery — we are truly excited about your consigned collection! (And we also have our eye on a few great pieces.) What is your favorite work in this collection and why?
Although I think they are all very special, and each one elicits a different response from me, I’m very drawn right now to the candid, backstage image captured of David Bowie in a quiet moment without makeup or costume. There is something really beautiful and dreamy about this shot!
We’ve heard that the Bruce Springsteen photo is particularly special. Can you tell us why?
It was taken at the start of The River Tour with The E Street Band, which launched in Michigan for a swing through the Midwest in 1980 concurrently with the release of The River album, during a time when Bruce was experimenting with appearing on stage in a more “grown-up/adult manner”; hence we see him here with a short haircut in a sports coat versus his typical outfit of shaggy chic hair, tee-shirt, and leather jacket, as he described in his recent autobiography. Also, I love that this was the tour when Bruce became known for marathon performances of 30-plus song sets that could last up to four hours, and it was the first that traveled to Europe.
What advice do you have for those interested in starting a collection — especially if they’re also passionate about rock and photography?
Purchase images that you love, works that give you energy or calm you down, and/or remind you of a great time!
Have you displayed any of these images — or others in your collection — in your home? If so, how did you incorporate them into your décor?
The collection is part of my everyday look. It’s incorporated into the overall décor of our home. The one in our guest bathroom is there as a surprise, and there is plenty to look at. It’s a rich, colorful photograph of The Rolling Stones performing on stage with guest artist Billy Preston during their 1975 U.S. tour. I love it.
In addition to rock photography, do you collect anything else?
We’re beginning to collect some art. So far, it’s an eclectic mix of photography, mixed media, and painting, including our first Old Master.
What is your personal style?
My personal style is contemporary, often with a touch of rock ’n’ roll (no surprise there), and the occasional nod to both classic and vintage styles. I like to mix it up!
For general design and fashion inspiration, I go to large and small museums, auction houses, and gallery exhibitions, visit pop-up stores, Instagram pages, and a few boutiques and department store favs in different cities when I can. Nature is a constant design inspiration for me!