Michael Mendelson Recalls Rock'N'Roll Greats
Michael Mendelson, holding a degree in Social Documentary Photography, too demands a great deal of preparation for his gallery displays. His work has almost always focused on rock and blues music personalities, and his present exhibit features over 65 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. The retrospective, featuring three decades’ worth of photography, now hangs in the Mark Reuben Gallery in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square.
Mendelson’s music photography began in the early 1970s, when attending his first Grateful Dead concert. He had brought a camera, and began clicking away, a natural with capturing decisive moments. Before he knew it, he was the official photographer for the San Francisco Blues Festival, an annual job that remains on his calendar, 20 years later.
Like Meyerowitz, and many other artists, the events of September 11, 2001, impacted Mendelson’s work. “When 9-11 happened, I dropped my retrospective project before it even started,” he said. “I didn’t feel my photos meant a damned thing anymore, compared to the severity of that event.” However, with the urging of friends about how the terrorist attacks should not control, impede, or negatively influence his life, he did move forward.
Knowing that exhibits choose only those images that will make the grade for display, Mendelson does very selective editing. For example, he explains, “I spent an entire evening with Frank Zappa and nothing I got that evening was worth producing compared to what’s been done with him on film.”
When images make the cut, Mendelson starts file preparation, scanning slides at 4,000 dpi – a great foundation for making larger prints. From there, he’ll tweak the files in Photoshop and outputs them on HP’s DesignJet 130NR, on HP Premium Plus Photo Satin paper, a move from his past printing efforts. “I switched from C prints, R-prints. Technicians aren’t often as concerned with colors as photographers might be.”
Asked about the change, Mendelson explained the benefits. “You know, I’ve gotten a lot of flak for using digital-based prints for limited edition sales, but comparing the [traditional film-based prints] shots side-by-side, the HP prints are more pleasant to look at. The colors are more vivid, and I’m really thrilled. This printer has been great right out of the box.”
Regarding size, Mendelson likes his display prints larger, as he feels the larger format makes them more “alive,” and allows prints to draw someone closer from 20 yards’ distance. He is quick to add that going larger doesn’t always work well with handling and care, and advises those planning a gallery show to consider that. His retrospective exhibit of legendary musicians is printed at a minimum of 24”x19”, with 20”x15” images. “This way, they’re a lot easier to fit in a van. Also, taking everything up a size from that makes it almost 30 percent more expensive to frame, and more expensive to ship, with over-size fees.” When framing his prints for the show, he feels the details matter here, too.
“The venue’s appearance, its black wall color, played into the finishing process. With a white-colored mat, the look isn’t what I was after. The gallery’s black walls created a larger, more infinite space that allowed the colors to really stand out when matted in black.” All of his prints are displayed with black mats, in black frames.
Meyerowitz and Mendelson may photograph widely different subject matter with divergent styles, yet the social and historic significance of their work, and the quality of their artistry, makes both collections portfolios for the generations.
For more Mendelson images, visit www.mendelsonarchives.com