SAN FRANCISCO.- San Francisco Art Exchange (SFAE) shines a light on a legendary half-decade of Stones lore and rock 'n roll history overall with "Beggars To Exiles: Unseen Photographs Of The Rolling Stones, 1966-1971," a new exhibition opening with a reception on Saturday, July 12, 7PM. Presented by SFAE in association with U.K.-based Raj Prem Fine Art Photography, the unprecedented show will feature approximately sixty limited edition images. Many are previously unseen, all are exquisitely rare and possessed of a behind-the-scenes intimacy that takes them worlds beyond celebrity portraiture. The work will be evenly split between pieces by photographers Dominique Tarle and the late Michael Cooper, both also denizens of the Rolling Stones' inner circle. For both photographers, the show marks the debut U.S. exhibition of work from their archives, as well as the first time they have been jointly exhibited anywhere.
The show's title refers to two of the Stones' album masterpieces, 1968's Beggars Banquet, released during the group's Chelsea heyday as emperors of mod London, and 1971's Exile On Main Street, recorded on the French Riviera one infamous summer when the band and their entourage were holed up at Villa Nellcote. Offering both stark contrast and complementary flow, the exhibition's images visually chart the band's dramatic evolution during these years, with British photographer Michael Cooper capturing '66 to '70 and France's Tarle represented exclusively by images taken in '71. Tarle will attend the opening, as will actor Jake Weber (Medium, NBC-TV), who is seen at age seven in a number of Tarle's images; he and his brother were at Nellcote all summer with their father Tommy Weber, then a Stones insider.
"Raj and I wanted to come up with something compelling to spotlight Dominique and Michael together, because they're two important photographers who were part of a seminal Stones era that's respected and revered by fans and by the band," says SFAE co-founder/director Theron Kabrich. "Beyond that, we see it as another in a series of shows we've done to raise awareness about era-defining moments in contemporary pop culture history. This window into the Stones' journey also chronicles a revolutionary generational change that was taking place globally. The fact that these images are rarely seen and little known, especially in America, makes Beggars To Exiles particularly exciting for us."
"Where the beau monde converged upon the demimonde," was how London's Sunday Times once described the milieu that inspired Michael Cooper's work. The International Herald Tribune called him, "The photographic Boswell of swinging London in the '60s," and The Economist wrote that Cooper's oeuvre was the, "best evidence yet of the cultural ferment between art and music in the 1960s." Central to the heady scene that passed before his lens were the Stones, and Cooper's access to them was extraordinary given his tight friendship with Keith Richards. Cooper's cover shot for Their Satanic Majesties Request (he also did the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's) is among Beggars To Exiles' images, as are photographs of the Stones -- including Brian
Jones -- in London, at Stonehenge and on holiday in California and Morocco. Cooper took his own life in 1973 at age 31, leaving an archive of over 70,000 images to his son Adam, along with a note saying, "they will eventually be worth something." About 600 of them were published in the long-sold out limited edition book Blinds And Shutters (1989, Genesis Publications), but most of them have never been seen, much less exhibited.
French photographer Dominique Tarle's images pick up chronologically where Cooper's leave off, when the Stones were encamped in 1971 at the Villa Nellcote, where Keith had set up house with Anita Pallenberg and their son Marlon. It became the location where Exile On Main Street was made, with the help of a mobile recording truck connected to a basement studio. Tarle recounted to the New York Times that, "A carnival of characters paraded through: Terry Southern Gram Parsons, John Lennon, even a tribal band from Bengal ... dope dealers from Marseille; petty thieves, who stole most of the drugs and half the furniture; and hangers-on, all of them there to witness what was happening."
In addition to images that reveal the band with well-known visitors to Nellcote -- including alt-country legend Gram Parsons and Michael Cooper, in one of the last photos taken of him -- Tarle's work features pieces that capture the sun-dappled languor of a summer sojourn in the south of France. These striking images have little sense of being about celebrity, but rather are artworks that just happen to have famous faces in them. Also in the mix are a number of pieces featuring the children who were in residence that summer, including Marlon Richards and Jake Weber, who is captured in several images with Keith. At SFAE's opening, Tarle and Weber will see each other for the first time since 1972.
Dominique Tarle's images of the Stones at Nellcote have also been the subject of a sold-out, limited edition Genesis Publications volume, Exile (2002). In an interview about the book, Genesis' publisher Brian Roylance suggested to Tarle that there were similarities between his work and Cooper's. Tarle replied, "... maybe Michael Cooper and I realised that pictures are far more important than the photographers themselves. We surely could choose something at the right time, at the right place, with the right people. For myself, I could only say that the whole of the game was to remain invisible and to have the least possible impact on what was going on around me."