Art & Photography / Who, What, Why

Testament of Youth: Rolling Stones Fans by Joseph Szabo

A photographer who captured youth in its rawest form, here Joseph Szabo turns his lens on kids revelling to the sounds of the Stones

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Rolling Stones Fans, 1978
Rolling Stones Fans, 1978Photography by Joseph Szabo

Who? Photographer Joseph Szabo worked as an art teacher at Long Island’s Malverne High from 1972-99. Finding many of his students aloof and distant, in an effort to understand them better, he brought his camera into school to photograph them. His unobtrusive and honest approach piqued their interest and earned their trust; later, their respect. Szabo was granted license to photograph them on the school’s grounds, at their homes, and during exclusive gatherings on Jones Beach. His ability to capture their insecurities and passions, and project it back to them, inadvertently presented him with his subject: adolescence.

Almost Grown, Szabo’s 1978 book of photographs from his first years at Malverne High, was heralded by the American Library Association as one of the ‘Best Books of the Year’. His visionary take on the young gained him cult status – as Vogue’s Creative Director Grace Coddington noted, during the early 90s, "all the young fashion photographers were looking at Joe’s photographs as their bible."

What? A fly-on-the-wall album from inside JFK stadium, Rolling Stones Fans gives an revelatory insight into a 90,000-strong crowd  going wild at a concert in June 1978. Szabo presents the stadium as a microcosm of late-70s youth; conflicting attitudes, sexual awakenings, freedom and fear, laid bare for all to see. We observe exhibitionists performing to mini audiences; pockets of friends reveling in the euphoria and mayhem of rock; sultry figures loitering in picturesque postures; couples lounging in carefree embraces. There is an energy to the collection, and a soundtrack – rock and roll is a prominent motif. Rolling Stones Fans is where an eternally iconic and intangible mood, movement and music are united, all at once, in a tangible form.

Why? For Szabo, the concert wasn’t on stage. The concert was in the field; it was the fans. Acquiring a ticket in return for driving two students to the gig, Szabo was given access to the stadium’s minefield of puberty, both as an accepted and non-judgmental insider, and an observant, artistically objective outsider. Using the reciprocal energy and trust between himself and his subjects, Szabo was able to profoundly connect with his muses. Through his work we gain a glimmer of insight into a thrilling world of rock'n'roll and its raw resonance with the young, the people for whom it was created to represent and inspire.

Rolling Stones Fans is out in May, published by Damiani.

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