Rock Paper Photo Showcases at John Varvatos

Written by Tina Benitez, Photos by Patrick Eves

Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Perry Farrell and the latest fall 2011 models-at-large, The Roots, are some artists who have slipped on John Varvatos and played model for the rock ‘n’ roll designer throughout the years. An avid rock fan, Varvatos, who opened his first boutique at the old CBGBs location in 2008, showcased some never-before-seen live rock royalty photographs from the archives of Rock Paper Photo inside his SoHo store this Saturday.

Partnering with Varvatos, also a rock photography fan and collector, was an organic union for Rock Paper Photo. Mark Halpern, CEO Rock Paper Photo, remembers seeing piles of rock photography books piled on Varvatos’ desk, yet he was still able to surprise the designer with some shots that he’s never laid eyes on. “John is passionate about rock photography,” says Halpern. “So we wanted to show him something he’s never seen before.”

Started in 2010 by Madonna manager Guy Oseary and Live Nation CEO Mike Rapino, Rock Paper Photo officially launched this past May and features 110 classic and contemporary photographers’ works for purchase.

Sprinkled throughout the boutique’s upstairs and downstairs and in between racks of Varvatos’ modish, rock attire were some extraordinary moments captured on film, including Richard Aaron’s live shot of Prince from the first night of the Purple Rain tour in Detroit, 1984 or Mike Zagaris’ photo of Jimmy Page at Bill Graham’s 1977 Day on the Greens concert. A disaster from the start, this photo was taken during Led Zeppelin’s second-to-last concert ever. The shows were surrounded by arguments between Zeppelin and Graham promoters with the legendary band’s fate nearly solidified when singer Robert Plant got word about the death of his 5-year-old son Karac, who died of a stomach infection. While on a much-needed hiatus, drummer Jon Bonham passed away nearly two years later. “There aren’t many photos of Jimmy Page like that anymore,” says Halpern. “There’s a higher standard for contemporary photographers now.”

Only 15 photographers were on display throughout the boutique, including a black and white image of The Who (also by Zagaris) capturing Pete Townsend sending his guitar into the air during the last moments of their the last show of their 1976 tour. Photographer Matt Ellis caught The Black Keys during their 2010 Lollapalooza with a rare, sunny Chicago skyline in the back. Part of the exhibit included a silent auction of a limited edition, live shot of Mick Jagger from 1974 by Ron Pownall, which sold to one Varvatos patron for $500 by the end of the exhibit. “People want two types of photography,” says Halpern. “They want the iconic shots they remember from opening an album, and they want the photos they never saw before.”

Halpern points to a shot of Jimi Hendrix, guitar fret board and strings to his face, and talks about the man who took the photo: Henry Grossman. A longtime photographer for LIFE magazine, Grossman has a body of work—most of which has never been seen. During a visit with Grossman, Halpern remembers looking through the photographer’s shots of the Beatles, John F. Kennedy and stumbling upon shots of Marilyn Monroe that he’s never seen before. “It’s not pontificating his work,” says Halpern. “His work goes well beyond music and will appreciate over time.”

Looking forward, Halpern says Rock Paper is looking for more partners to showcase their rock photography and will work with Varvatos more with different rock photography themes by next summer and beyond.

Rock portraits will be on exhibit at the Los Angeles Varvatos shoot beginning tomorrow, Dec. 6.

Read more of Tina’s work at and check out more of Patrick’s photos at

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