August 8, 2014

David Gahr and the United States Postal Service

We produced an exhibition for The Morrison Hotel Gallery from the archives of music photographer, David Gahr, in 2012. Around that same time the United States Postal Service issued 23 million “Forever” stamps of Miles Davis using one of Gahr’s images. This was their biggest run of a single celebrity stamp … ever!


That’s not just a rare occurrence … it’s also pretty damn cool if you think about it.


So fast forward to August 2014 and low-and-behold: the USPS has done it again! Only this time they’ve issued 60 million stamps using Gahr’s image of Janis Joplin … that’s nearly unbelievable, really.


Gahr stamps


Here’s what the USPS had to say about both issues:


Miles Davis:


Miles Davis was at the forefront of jazz musicians for decades, setting trends and exploring musical styles from bebop through cool jazz, fusion and funk. His restless musical exploration made him a hero to jazz lovers throughout the world. Among his many influential recordings areBirth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, and In a Silent Way. He was also a great bandleader, and many important musicians rose to prominence in his bands, including saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter; drummers Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette; and pianists Bill Evans, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock.
The Miles Davis family commented: “It is an extremely high honor to have the legacy of Miles Dewey Davis recognized with a commemorative stamp. We thank the U.S. Postal Service, along with all of the fans and well-wishers worldwide, who voiced their support for this initiative.”


Janis Joplin:


The artwork for this stamp features a photo of Janis Joplin taken by David Gahr in June 1970. The original black and white photograph is rendered in shades of blue, with Joplin’s trademark round sunglasses tinted a shade of pink. With her wild mane of hair decorated with a feathered accessory, wrists decked out in bangle bracelets, and expressive smile, it’s a joyful image of this iconic singer. The words “Janis Joplin,” along with the “Forever” denomination and “USA” appear in psychedelic-style script reminiscent of the 1960s, in shades of gold, orange, and pink. Daniel Pelavin designed the lettering. Small blue stars pop out from the stamp’s dark blue background. Text below the stamps briefly describes Joplin’s musical legacy.

The stamp sheet is designed to resemble a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve. One side of the sheet includes the stamps and the image of a sliver of a record seeming to peek out the top of the sleeve. A photograph taken by Bruce Steinberg in May 1968 at the First International San Jose Pop Festival, and the logo for the Music Icons series appear on the reverse side, along with the words “Janis Joplin Blues Rock Country Soul Folk.”

You can say a lot of things about the post office … but one thing is for sure, you have no excuse for using boring looking stamps on your envelopes and packages ever again!




October 30, 2012

David Gahr at Morrison Hotel

David Gahr: Legacy of a Master Photographer
Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York City
October 25 – November 20, 2012

Back in July, Aaron Zych from the Morrison Hotel Gallery called to ask if we would be interested in producing an exhibition from the archives of music photographer, David Gahr. At the time, aside from recognizing a few images, we knew little of Gahr’s work, who passed away in 2008 …


From the Morrison Hotel Gallery press release:


The launch of David’s career coincided with the birth of the folk music revival, and he and his camera soon emerged as fixtures of the Greenwich Village circuit, documenting virtually every significant figure and moment of the period. Gahr established an instant rapport with his subjects. His intense affection for music guaranteed he captured his subjects in flattering, sometimes reverential contexts, and his particular expertise with posed shots included skillful employment of natural light.


Fortunately for us, we were able to work closely on this project with Robert B. Ward, a long-time associate of David’s and the acting archivist of the Gahr estate. Bob was a tremendous help in determining the look of the exhibition prints, as well as a source for anecdotal information that would give us clues into David’s working procedures.


David Gahr: Pete Seeger, Beacon, NY 1958
30 x 40 archival pigment print


By all accounts, David Gahr was a hardworking photographer known for rigorously controlling the published look and feel of his images by making as many of his own final prints as possible in his own darkroom. However, one idea that Ghar did not seem to entertain was creating master prints to set the standard of his vision for the future. So, while vast in content, the archive would unfortunately yield only a somewhat uneven selection of prints to use as guides for this exhibition, the first ever of his work. In fact, most of the supplied prints appeared to have been rejects and extras saved from his initial printing sessions as he prepared reproduction copies for the various publications and record companies for which he had been hired to shoot.



David Gahr: Howlin’ Wolf Band, Newport Folk Festival, 1966
20 x 24 archival pigment print


All the images chosen by the Morrison Hotel Gallery were shot on location using 35mm black and white film in natural or existing light, a signature element of Gahr’s personal style. The original negatives were scanned at LTI/Lightside, a decision determined primarily by the general condition of the negatives, which, were curated from a shooting career that spanned more than 30 years. As mentioned, David was a steady professional shooter who amassed an enormous volume of work on assignment . His images were well received and often requested and published again and again. Many of the original negatives appeared to have been well-traveled – though sometimes not so well cared for – and in a few cases, damaged from all the handling and transit. Therefore, it was decided that the best solution to present a consistent reflection of Ghar’s vision for the Morrison Hotel would be to create an all-new set of high-resolution master files and fiber-based archival pigment prints.

Once the negatives were scanned, we then set about preparing them for a series of internal proofing rounds. This involved a general cleaning of the newly produced the raw scans, the identification of any handling and damage issues that were present in the original negatives and loosely adjusting the tone and contrast for each image based on whatever 8 x 10 original prints were available from the archive. This in-house work was done in preparation of inviting Ward and Zych in to (re)acquaint themselves for the first time with the digitized versions of their exhibition choices.



David Gahr: Joni Mitchell, Newport Folk Festival, 1967
20 x 24 archival pigment print


Initial review rounds are always interesting. For Ward and Zych, this part of the process proved to be rather eye-opening as we chose to present the first set of proofs enlarged to nearly 16″ long dimension … a size already larger than either had seen these images ever before. Gahr’s images did not disappoint and all the original choices held up nicely for focus. A flurry of notes were taken from that first session. Perhaps the one difficult issue that arose was simply choosing which images would be enlarged to 30″ x 40″ as they nearly all looked like terrific candidates for mural printing!



David Gahr: Sam Sheppard and Patti Smith, Chelsea Hotel, New York City, 1971
20 x 24 archival pigment print

After we applied the changes from the initial round, we switched to proofing images in small batches, enabling us to edge each image closer towards the what we perceived Ghar’s preferred tone and contrast to be. Eventually, the entire body of 40 prints was able to stand on its own, realized as a whole for the first time ever.


You can view the entire catalog of Gahr’s works represented by The Morrison Hotel Gallery by clicking here and you also read further into David’s story by visiting his website here:



Tags: , , , , , ,