Babble Report | The Photography of Prog Rock Icon

Babble Report | The Photography of Prog Rock Icon

The iconic album cover art you see here is a watercolor created by artist Barry Godber for the psychedelic progressive rock band King Crimson back in 1969. It’s a powerful image and is familiar even to those who are not well-versed in the rock genre with which it is so strongly associated.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up around this music (that would thankfully frighten your typical Justin Beiber fan) as well as a myriad of black and white photos of the band members backstage while on tour. My uncle, bassist Tony Levin, joined the band in the early eighties (long after Godber had passed away) and chronicled his experience with his camera. The collection, which includes other musicians besides King Crimson, is an intriguing telling of stories.

The photos are largely journalistic, but capture moods and moments to which no rock journalist would ever gain access. A creative visual artist, Tony played with his surroundings, capturing not only the day-to-day life of touring musicians, but also their stranger antics, gestures and habits. The shots are candid and evince the surrealistic madness that comes upon a musician who has been on tour for months, trapped in the “…lobby life of hurry-up-and-wait…for the odd shaped keys that lead to new soap and envelopes.” About his photography, Tony simply told me that “…like quite a few musicians, I’m attracted to having some art that’s tangible and permanent — the quality of music, especially live, that keeps making it magic for me is that it’s never the same, and exists only in the moment – but, gee, it’s a nice change to say, here is a picture I shot or painted … like it or not, there it is.”

Years ago, Tony published a book of all these photos he’d taken. He’s recently digitally republished those he took of King Crimson via a new interactive iPhone/iPad app for which he ran a now-fully-funded Kickstarter. I interviewed Tony about this new project and wrote about his other still-active fundraiser for his band Stick Men. Part of the proceeds from the latter effort will be donated to O Positive, which will be taking place during the first weekend of October.

Read my interview with Tony on the O Positive blog here…

(Babble Reports are short portal posts that link to Samantha’s writing for other publications)

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