Photographer Elliott Landy, who is perhaps best known for his portraits of some of the most towering gods of Rock n’ Roll like Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, has a powerful way of capturing an ethereal glamour in his photos. He doesn’t focus on glitz or color. Instead, his photos, often in black and white, have the power to realize their subjects as something akin to mystical. The rock gods and mega-celebrities in Landy’s photos often resemble pseudo deities, but in no way does this extreme aura hinder upon the humanity of the subjects. Instead, it is the viewer’s projection that elevates the subjects into something extra-human, and the subjects then appear trapped by the viewer’s own elevated expectations of who and what the subject should be. This unique photographic dichotomy is captured beautifully in the black and white photographs found in Landy’s new Imperial Pictures published book Opening Night.
The book exemplifies Landy’s best work in capturing the complexities attached to fame. The book doesn’t focus on rock stars, but instead captures celebrities like Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Harris, and more as well as the crowds of people that idolized and mobbed them. The photos both glamorize celebrity while sharply criticizing our obsessions with it. The message of these photos is more relevant than ever,” writes Landy in the book’s opening, “That we, as a society, pay more attention to physical glamour and fame than to wisdom.” It was superbly fitting then that to celebrate the release of the book, Landy got his own star treatment as a courtesy of a party thrown in his honor at the Jane Hotel by Paperwork NYC.
With modern dance and pop tunes spliced in with vintage soul courtesy of PJ Monte, Landy found himself surrounded by fans, downtown NYC mainstays like Cat Marnell, and his oldest and dearest friends to celebrate this beautiful collection of his work. Landy has very unique warmth. When I approached him, I tried to relate via my love of Van Morrison’s records Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece that pulled me out of some heartbreak after I got dumped by a girlfriend in college. “Van’s music has that ability to lift up your spirits,” said Landy. He then signed my book, “Dear Adam, many moondances to you—Elliot Landy.” I was touched. Even people that just happened to be partying at the Jane picked up copies of the book and had them signed by Landy. Landy treated them all the same. It is that generosity and empathy that has allowed Landy to create such magnetic emotion in these pictures. Text and photographs by Adam Lehrer