Let's do some math. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and local photographer Larry Hulst has shot at least one roll of film at each of the 2,800 concerts he's attended, how much rock 'n roll history has passed through his camera's shutter?
The answer: more than enough for a very thick book on classic rock. But luckily for local art aficionados and music fans, Hulst has condensed three decades' worth of his finest photography into a simple, elegant exhibit, It's Only Rock & Roll, running from Aug. 13 through Sept. 4 at the Phototroph Gallery in Manitou Springs.
Hulst's black-and-white images, which capture the onstage, mid-song candor of some of rock's biggest legends, constitute an entire course in rock iconography. The photographs are taken from the perspective of a fan, huddled at the front of the stage, entranced by the music.
"Backstage photography was never for me," claims Hulst. "I wanted to take shots of performers doing their jobs and entertaining people."
In contrast to the recent Linda Eastman-McCartney exhibit at the Fine Arts Center, which featured an intimate look into the day-to-day lives of rock stars, Hulst's photographs capture all the arrogance, swagger and inaccessibility of the star on stage.
But long before Hulst was recognized for his documentation of rock-concert phenomena, he was a humble concertgoer himself.
"I'm a music fan first and foremost, a photographer second," says Hulst. "I never directed my life toward photojournalism; I just started taking pictures in order to pay for gas money and concert tickets."
After serving as a medical corpsman in Vietnam, Hulst returned to California in 1969 and began attending concerts at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore West Auditorium. His photographic arsenal was limited to a Minolta SRT-101 that he brought back from Vietnam.
"I didn't have a lot of technical experience, so I just shot lots and lots of pictures of bands, and eventually got good at developing my own film," he recalls.
As Hulst steadily honed his craft, he afforded himself the opportunity to photograph the crme of rock royalty.
"Each image reminds me of a story," he says. "I photographed Hendrix two months before he died, plus Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Costello, the Grateful Dead, you name it."
His self-professed deficiency in marketing his own photography kept Hulst from joining the ranks of the photojournalistic elite, but it didn't stop him from meeting -- and propositioning -- a number of rock legends along the way.
"I met George Harrison and spent about 15 minutes with him," says Hulst. "I had a really nice 8-by-10 of him onstage that I was trying to sell for $20, but he didn't buy it. I think he was hoping for something free."
Hulst sees opportunity in sharing his love for music and photography with a wider audience.
"For anyone who cherishes the days of pushing up toward the stage and having your favorite musician look you in the eyes," he says, "these photographs will make you feel like you're right there all over again. "
-- Joe Kuzma
It's Only Rock & Roll
Phototroph Gallery, 16 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs
Opening reception, Saturday, Aug. 13, 6-8 p.m.; show runs through Sept. 4.
Free; call 685-1313 for more.