While still a student at art school, photographer Matthew Rolston was hand selected by Andy Warhol to shoot for his magazine, Interview. Rolston’s inspired portraits of fashion models, movie stars, and musicians from the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s brought a fine art aesthetic to magazine photography, earning him a wide variety of clients ranging from Vanity Fair and Vogue.
Rolston went on to shoot more than 100 covers of Rolling Stone. His meticulous attention to detail and clever staging re-envisioned the way editorial photography was created during the heyday of glossy magazines and the budding music video era. While camera technology of the ‘80s was making it easier for the masses to point-and-click, Rolston’s style seemed to reflect classical compositions, echoing the image makers from the German expressionist and silent film eras. Many of his works would not have looked out of place in the glamor magazines of the ‘40s and ‘50s. But in the ‘80s, Rolston’s throwback style contrasted the mall rats and neon demons populating the pop culture of the post-disco epoch.
Rolston continues to be a prolific photographer and artist today. And in honor of his new solo show at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, for GOOD, he has selected 10 photos from his archives, and shared a few stories from photographing some of the ‘80s biggest stars.
“Referencing Salvador Dalí’s legendary 1931 painting ‘The Persistence of Memory,’ the design painted on the model Anitta’s face was created by renowned makeup artist Francesca Tolot from a concept I developed. Originally photographed for Interview magazine in 1987, this image became part of an exhibition at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology called ‘Fashion and Surrealism,’ a group exhibition which traveled to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1988.”
“This image is a cross between a portrait and a fashion image, although the model, Anitta, is not featuring any particular fashion designer. Instead, she’s wearing a unique costume created for an exhibition at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 1987 entitled ‘Fashion and Surrealism.’ The image was created with in-camera double-exposure, not a dark room trick. I used Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ as one of the inspirations for this photograph.”
“Another double-exposure from the series ‘The Surreal Thing,’ originally published in Interview magazine, and once again referencing Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Early Delights,’ this ‘style portrait’ of supermodel Christy Turlington is highly unusual in its presentation of the well-known beauty.”
“During actress Brigitte Nielsen’s brief marriage to Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone, she became a legendary figure in the movie colony. At more than 6 feet tall in her bare feet, Nielsen’s personal appearance, often intimidating, was a kind-of cross between a 1950s Hollywood star – think Kay Kendall in the 1957 Hollywood production ’Les Girls’ – and a punk version of a valkyrie straight out of a Wagner opera. Going contrary to type, I decided to photograph Nielsen ‘without makeup’ and ‘undone’ to convey a certain vulnerability, one that would’ve been a surprise to her audience at the time. Nonetheless, I made sure to feature the ultimate mark of the Hollywood wife –an oversized marquise-cut diamond on her ring finger.”
“For this 1986 portrait of Hollywood actress Cybill Shepherd, I referenced ‘Golden Age’ comedienne Carole Lombard, finding similarities between the two women’s spirit, beauty, and well-known wit. Photographed at Bel Air’s famous Kirkeby mansion, one of the grandest homes in the film community (and incidentally used as the location of popular 1960s sitcom, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’), I set this portrait against the rare hand-painted wallpaper in the estate’s formal dining room.”
This portrait, an outtake from a larger portrait session of pop star Cyndi Lauper, was originally photographed for a special music issue of Andy Warhol’s Interview in 1986. My use of crystals throughout the session was a reference to what I perceived as Lauper’s ‘magical and inspiring sense of personal freedom and style.’ For me, Lauper was and always will be ‘a true original.’”
“In 1991, American actress Drew Barrymore was just coming into her own as a woman. A former child star with precocious habits, I presented her here cross-dressed as a boy. This ‘look’ prefigures a film ten years on in Barrymore’s career called ‘Riding in Cars With Boys’ and is emblematic of the 1980s pop focus on alternative gender display. As always, I often sought to upend expectations in my celebrity portraits.”
“Isabella Rossellini was considered one of the greatest beauties of the 1980s. With her international Lancome beauty contract, she was seen all over the world, regarded as one of the ultimate avatars of feminine appeal. This image attempts to humanize that appeal while referencing such diverse influences as Disney heroines surrounded by their familiars – blue birds and sparrows (think Snow White) – as well as ‘lifestyle’ photography of stars from the big picture books of the 1950s such as ‘Life’ and ‘Look.’”
“This image marks my first significant published portrait. It was commissioned by Andy Warhol for Warhol’s influential Interview magazine in 1977 while I was still a student at Los Angeles’ Art Center College of Design. This was my ‘break.’ In order to prepare for this photograph, I was allowed to attend a private screening of Spielberg’s upcoming film, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ which led to my lighting plan. In this portrait, it seems as if there’s a spaceship hovering just outside the frame, and Spielberg’s gaze has an otherworldly quality.”
“Inspired by lyrics from Tom Waits’ well-known song ‘Jockey Full of Bourbon’ – off Waits’ 1985 album ‘Rain Dogs’ – ‘hey little bird, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children are alone’ – here I chose to portray the pop star as the ultimate roving troubadour, tinkerer, and vagabond. A completely made up scenario, I set this scene in the desert with a donkey and various props, including an actual blackbird (with its own Hollywood handler, of course).”
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