Exhibit rocks lawyers' world: Q&A with John Lennon's photographer (PHOTOS)
By Ben Horowitz
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
November 20, 2015
Renowned rock'n'roll photographer Bob Gruen, has 40 of his photos on display at the law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
FLORHAM PARK — Bob Gruen, John Lennon's personal photographer and close friend when he was living in New York City in the 1970s, would seem to have done everything in the world of rock 'n' roll photography.
The longtime Manhattan resident, who just turned 70, is known for his iconic portraits capturing rock stars in relaxed, casual moments.
Gruen has photographed everyone from the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Madonna and Green Day to Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen. He has published several books of his pictures and his best-known work is probably his portrait of John Lennon standing with his arms folded, wearing a New York City T-shirt.
But there was one thing Gruen hadn't done until this week: Set up a display of his photos in a gallery setting.
That changed when a Florham Park law firm, Sherman Wells Sylvester & Stamelman, purchased 40 of Gruen's photos for a permanent display on the walls of its offices.
Photographer Bob Gruen, describes one of of his photographs on display at the law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
Tony Sylvester, one of the partners in the law firm, described Gruen as "a client and a friend." Sylvester, who now lives in Mendham, had known Gruen for many years, starting when both were young men spending a lot of time in New York music venues, and he contacted Gruen about a display.
"We're trying to have fun, we want to do things a little differently," Sylvester said. "Everyone loves rock 'n' roll, and I'm a big fan of his work."
During a busy reception on Thursday evening that served as a party to introduce the law firm's new gallery, Gruen answered questions during an interview with NJ Advance Media as dozens of people admired his photos on the walls.
Lou A. Budzyn snaps a photo of of Bob Gruen's photo of John Lennon at the law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
Q: What made you decide to set up an exhibit at a law firm in Florham Park?
Gruen: They asked me. They wanted to buy 40 pictures. It was an easy decision. I said "yes." This is the first time I've done this kind of acrylic mounting.
Q: What was John Lennon like as a person?
Gruen: John was very much the way he was in the movies. He was very funny, very perceptive. He was very aware of what was going on in the world. It's the same thing as being friends with anybody. You share some sense of reality.
John liked hanging out and he liked being normal. He would rather go places in my Volkswagen than in a limo.
Q: What kind of things did you do with John and Yoko Ono?
Gruen: They liked to eat well, so I would show up for lunch and dinner. John and I went to see the "Sergeant Pepper" play and we went to see Jimmy Cliff in concert.
Q: How did you meet John and Yoko?
Gruen: I met John and Yoko during an interview with After Dark Magazine. Henry Edwards was the reporter and I was the photographer. It snowballed from there. After we met, I went to his studio more and more often.
Q: How did you get started as rock photographer?
Gruen: In the 1960s, I took pictures of a band called Glitterhouse. They were a psychedelic pop band. They did music for the movie "Barbarella" but no one remembers them now. The record company used my photos. People liked my photos. It snowballed from there. I started meeting more and more people and taking more and more photos.
Q: What was it like working with the Sex Pistols? They were such an angry band, but they look very relaxed in that photo with those straws and sodas in the diner.
Gruen: They were comedians. I knew Malcolm McLaren, their manager, and he introduced us.
Q: What bands have you worked with recently?
Gruen: Green Day. I went to London and Paris with them on their private jet about four years ago. They're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so that means they've been around 25 years and they're not that young anymore. But they're younger than most of the people I've worked with.
Their plane is not as big as Led Zeppelin's, but Led Zeppelin rented their plane. (One of Gruen's photos shows Led Zeppelin standing in front of their plane in 1973).
Q: What kind of work are you doing now?
Gruen: Now I do exhibits and books and licensing. I have a website.
Ben Horowitz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HorowitzBen. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Renowned rock'n'roll photographer Bob Gruen, has 40 of his photos on display at a law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
Robert Klahre admires a photograph of Chuck Berry taken by photographer Bob Gruen. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
Renowned rock'n'roll photographer Bob Gruen has 40 of his photos on display at the law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. Here, Bruce Springsteen performs at the Palldium theater in New York City in 1976. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)
Renowned rock'n'roll photographer Bob Gruen, stands by a print of a contact sheet of John Lennon. The print is one of 40 photos on display at the law office of Sherman Wells in Florham Park. (Robert Paniconi | For NJ Advance Media)