2016-03-23 Copenhagen photographer Jørgen Angel lived and captured a golden era in rock ‘n’ roll. He shares with us his experience digitising an expansive collection of gritty black & white images using a Hasselblad Flextight scanner.
Jørgen Angel has always had a thing for music. Shooting rock artists was something he got into at the age of fourteen. Pouring over his immense body of work, he must have attended every concert in Copenhagen. Jørgen was a student when he began selling his photographs for pennies and later even managed to make a sparse living out of it. When he finally hit the road as a freelancer he began selling photographs and interviews to popular magazines. Unlike today, in the 1960s and 70s rock artists were far more approachable. Music was played for the love of it and for the fans. Managers were not about to tell anyone who they could or could not hang out with. So photographing them was rarely seen as a problem. Sure, when in April 1967, Jørgen, climbed on stage at a Yardbirds’ concert, the tour manager didn’t hesitate to pull him aside – but only to tell him not to step on Jimmy Page’s guitars: “Mind the gear!” he said.
Those were back in the days when security didn’t stand between the audience and the stage. People came for a good time and musicians understood the value of good photographs – in becoming more popular. Jørgen Angel was able to walk straight into dressing rooms and take pictures of musicians there. He would meet them at airports and party with them after concerts.
When Jørgen looks back he remembers how friendly the rock celebrities used to be. Everyone always got along, and work was fun. The photographer was an accepted part of the crowd, never a burden. This enabled him to shoot portraits and pictures vibrant with energy and spontaneity – in a way that seems impossible today. By the early 80s, Jørgen Angel decided to put down his camera because managers had started to insert themselves between the stars and their followers. Photographers were only permitted to work during the first three songs of a gig, if at all. Private photo shoots had become next to impossible. Far too many were now delivering the exact same material. “I looked at my work and asked where the inspiration had gone.” Tina Turner and one of The Ikettes 1972, Copenhagen, Denmark © Jørgen Angel
Jørgen Angel decided that it was time to do something else and 50,000 negatives were left uncared for in various basements and attics. Jørgen had long shifted his focus to other things, feeling like the last survivor of the Golden Era. And many years went by before he was finally prompted to dig through his countless crates.
Saving an Archive
He turned to Hasselblad, where a series of test scans convinced him at once: “By then I’d been through a whole bunch of scanners. None of them gave me the detail I was looking for. Jørgen swears by the quality of the Flextight: “The portrait of Robert Plant in March 69, one of my favourite shots, was taken with my mom’s snapshot camera. The fact that it can be printed as large as DIN A0 format – that’s the size of a door! – Is solely thanks to the Flextight scanner.”David Bowie, Copenhagen, Denmark © Jørgen Angel
Time is a serious consideration when you’re faced with tens of thousands of images, all requiring digitisation to the highest quality standard. Fortunately, Jørgen Angel was able to cut back on involuntary coffee breaks by switching to the Hasselblad Flextight X5. He was able to scan at approximately 2 minutes per 35mm negative – obviously at the maximum quality setting. He has been batch processing and using an effective condenser lens to suppress smaller scratches and dust particles reducing retouching dramatically. High speed scanning is not only much easier, but also ensures an effective way to safely store prints or negatives, before they get attacked by mold, fade or are irretrievably destroyed by other factors.
“The Flextight scanner has changed the way I work, finally I have the right equipment.”
“Thanks for Being There!”
Those who speak with Jørgen Angel, or visit his website will appreciate the short anecdotes beside certain pictures. Now we know that glam rock star Marc Bolan was one of the friendliest of all but also vain enough to appreciate a good picture. Some shots also give the viewer a glimpse behind the scenes. Take the picture of Sex Pistols idol Johnny Rotten, who looks like a harmless schoolboy, unquestionably the exact opposite of what he was trying to be at the time.Johnny Rotten – Sex Pistols 1977, Copenhagen, Denmark © Jørgen Angel
Perhaps to a certain degree it was the very nature of these shots, so alive and real, that lead to the demise of Angel’s work: they became marketing tools that image-obsessed managers soon wanted to control. Concurrently, the competition was growing: “After the 1967 film Blow-Up, starring David Hemmings as the slick photographer, everyone wanted to be a photographer,” says Jørgen Angel. So what was it like being part of the Golden Era? “Back then, I didn’t know I was part of an historic moment, no one imagined that it wouldn’t last forever. I loved the music, had fun and really enjoyed working. I was a school boy who didn’t give two thoughts about whether someone who was famous at the time would also be famous a year later, not to mention in 40 years time.”
Well, thank God it never stopped him from taking pictures. Jimmy Page probably puts it best, in a comment on the photographs of the first Led Zeppelin concert: “Jørgen, thanks for being there!”
Jørgen Angel’s outdoor exhibiton “Rock’n’Road” is currently shown on the fence of the Copenhagen Metro Østerport Station until June 2016. The exhibited images has just been put on auction at the auction house Bruun Rasmussen
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