AP is sad to report the death of Baron Wolman, a highly influential US photographer who worked as the first official staff shooter for the seminal rock magazine, Rolling Stone. Wolman, who was 83 and suffering from ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, passed away on Monday. His representative, Dianne Duenzl, confirmed the photographer’s death to Rolling Stone.

“It is with a sad heart that we announce the passing of Baron Wolman on November 2, 2020,” she said. “Baron died peacefully at the age of 83, after a battle with ALS. Baron’s pictures gave us a rare, comprehensive, and accurate reflection of that time executed by a gifted artist whose visual intelligence is unsurpassed.”

Wolman himself was aware the end was near, and wrote the following on Facebook on October 4th. “Sad to say I’m now in the final sprint to the end… I go forward with a huge amount of gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon me (family, friends, travels and more), with no regrets and appreciation for how my photographs — my life’s work — have been received.”

Baron Wolman worked for Rolling Stone from 1967 to 70, three of the greatest years for music in that incredible decade. One of his most iconic images was Jimi Hendrix setting his Stratocaster alight at the Monterey Festival in 1967. “Everybody was approachable and appreciative in those days,” Wolman told Rolling Stone in 2011. “It was never difficult. We’d sit around and talk and I’d take pictures. There were a lot of changes going on, and people would show it in the way they put themselves together — long hair, granny glasses. For a photographer, it was a gold mine.” He also took iconic images of Janis Joplin, The Who, The Grateful Dead and many other big names. Given his backstage access via the magazine, it’s not surprising he also found time for a  notorious project on groupies.

Despite being known forever as a photographer of the sex, drugs and rock and roll era of the late 60s, Wolman was born into an outwardly straight-laced family in Columbus, Ohio, but described his childhood has being quite difficult. He picked up a camera to escape what he called the “chaos” around him. After graduating from Northwestern University, he briefly worked for the US military in Berlin (where he also did documentary projects).

Military service over, he relocated to San Francisco, then the epicentre of the counter culture, where he developed his photographic skills and met Rolling Stone founder, Jann Wenner. “Baron was perfect,” Wenner explained.”I didn’t want a photographer who was just going to go to shows and take photos from their seats. I wanted portraits with elegance and style, and Baron had that. He set the look for Rolling Stone.”

After serving his three years on the magazine, Wolman felt the job was getting repetitive. He started a fashion and culture magazine called Rags, which proved to be short-lived, then moved into book publishing, as well as becoming an aviation photographer.

Two of Wolman’s covers for Rolling Stone. Credit: Rolling Stone

Further reading
Celebrating 50 years of Rolling Stone