New York Summer Evenings by Jill Golden

A Far-Out Crowd Celebrates the Return of Karl Ferris Photography to the New York Scene

Are You Experienced album cover
Photo: Karl Ferris

Karl Ferris is best known as the “father” of psychedelic rock photography. A new exhibit at the Morrison Hotel Gallery reveals his singular vision with extraordinary lasting impact. Ferris’ photographs reflect not only his real-time awareness of the 60’s rockers’ iconic place place in history; but also the real, raw vulnerability of these young stars as they led the explosion of youth culture across the country and throughout the world.

On the 50th anniversary of Ferris’s groundbreaking album and cover “Are You Experienced”, the gallery is stepping through the looking glass into the Age of Psychedelia with an exhibition and sale featuring the works of photographer Karl Ferris, as well as Neal Preston, Joel Brodsky and other photographers represented by the gallery. Images of Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, The Doors and others will take people on a trip back through the psychedelic era

Jimi Hendrix
Photo: Karl Ferris

Ferris’ world renowned “Are You Experienced” Jimi Hendrix album cover with Hendrix’ neon back-lit afro took center stage at the exhibit. The Jimi Hendrix cover is indeed extraordinary, but it was some of Ferris’ quieter images that cut through our more airbrushed modern sensibility. Stand out shots included Pink Floyd exuding an earnest nonchalance in an early group pose on a sunny hotel balcony, as well as a grainy look at Bob Dylan in his electric phase staring with a disgruntled determination into the street. A photograph of Janis Joplin sharing a mic with Tina Turner had the everyday accessibility of a backyard concert, but the photographed-from-below angle communicates the momentous nature of their duet.

The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man
Photo:  Barry Feinstein

Ferris was a British photographer and designer who grew up in the 50’sin Hastings, England. He became interested in art at a young age, studying at Hastings College of Art where he focused on Pre-Raphaelite painting, which later influenced his photographic style of the 1960s. After serving two years with the RAF as an aerial photographer where he worked with infrared spy surveillance photography, he moved into fashion, shooting for 19, French Mode, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Ferris’s most Iconic collection of photographs are those capturing Jimi Hendrix and The Jimi Hendrix Experience in what is now known as a “psychedelic style.”Ferris’s most Iconic collection of photographs are those capturing Jimi Hendrix and The Jimi Hendrix Experience in what is now known as a “psychedelic style.”  The use of the fisheye lens and his innovative infrared film photographic technique created a never-before-seen effect gave Ferris his start as a leader of the psychedelic revolution and chronicler of the British rock elite.

The Grateful Dead
Photo: Baron Wolman

Peter Blachley, the mastermind behind the Karl Ferris show remembered the first time he saw the Jimi Hendrix album cover with Ferris’ groundbreaking infrared photography. “Those were the watershed years in the renaissance of American popular music – ’67, ’68, ’69,” he said. “I know because I lived them and the Ferris photo was just as exciting as the music.” Peter Blachley was clearly enthusiastic about re-introducing the excitement of those years to a downtown crowd in the very different era of 2017.

Keith Richards
Photo: Ethan Russell

The atypically eclectic crowd at show’s opening was reminiscent of a 60’s happening. Attendees who lived the rock life in the 60’s brought out their authentic retro finery, such as a black patent “Beatles cap,” enumerable embroidered blouses, and a pinstripe bell-bottom suit that could have come right out of Austin Power’s wardrobe.  Anna Sui was the designer of choice for the event’s many young hipsters. A true stand-out was Yvette Esteve’s multi-textured magenta Anna Sui cape, with rich velvet and gold brocade detailing.

Eric Clapton
Photo:  Robert Whitaker

Ferris’ evocative photos inspired a conversation among young and old about the fabulous language of that long ago time. “Far Out” was a runaway favorite expression:

“Far Out, it’s out there!” exclaimed Monica Tolentino

“Far Out, Man, it’s perfect for me too, because my mind tend to be so far out there,” added Marion Jackson.

“It means originality and being different,” said Yvette Esteve.

Eva Estime summed it up: “Far Out, I love how that expression is just so now!”

“Groovy Baby” was another great one that popped into Adam Pollack’s mind.

Paul Davis liked the simplicity of “Peace” as a universal greeting and sign-off.
Stephen Lombardo was a fan of “Make Love Not War.”

And Peter Blachley, remembered an almost vaudeville conversation with his best friend in which he asked, “What do you think of free love?” and his friend replied, “Works for me, I’m broke!”

The Morrison Gallery is located at 116 Prince Street and the Karl Ferris exhibit will run until September 10th.

Jill Golden



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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