Iconic counter-culture photographer Robert Altman dies at 76 – CBS San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Robert Altman, a legendary photojournalist who helped document San Francisco’s counterculture while working for Rolling Stone Magazine, has died aged 76.
A press release issued on Tuesday confirmed that Altman died at his San Francisco home on or around September 24, a month before his 77th birthday. The cause of death was attributed to complications from his long battle with esophageal cancer, the statement said.
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Altman’s photographs of San Francisco’s counterculture and booming rock ‘n roll scene in the 1960s and 1970s established him as one of the early photojournalists working for Rolling Stone Magazine during the years of publication formation. He then focused on the world of fashion.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Altman attended Hunter College, before studying photography with Ansel Adams before moving to San Francisco. He has become a fixture in the city’s artistic community. Originally published in the underground Good Times newspaper, Altman later succeeded fellow photographer Baron Wollman as chief photographer for Rolling Stone magazine.
He went on to photograph some of the iconic artists of the era, photographing period events like the Big Sur Folk Festival and the ill-fated Rolling Stones concert in Altamont in 1969. He took photos of the Stones while working in the studio recording. on their album “Let It Bleed” and captured such figures as Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Iggy Pop, Janis Joplin, The Doors and many more live as they performed on stage.
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“Robert Altman was instrumental in portraying the look and vitality of the ’60s,” Jann Wenner, founder, publisher and publisher of Rolling Stone once said. Altman held this position at Rolling Stone from 1970 to 1973, although he contributed to the magazine later.
“Robert Altman left us with indelible images of a time and place that will resonate through the ages as an enduring American archetype, The San Francisco Hippie,” said the Bay Area music critic and author, Joel Selvin.
Altman’s photos were used in director Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous”, covering the walls of the office staged version of Rolling Stone Magazine. Ben Fong-Torres, legendary Rolling Stone writer and Bay Area reporter, wrote the front of Altman’s photo book, “The Sixties,” which featured many of the timeless images he had taken for the magazine.
For several decades, Altman also operated his own commercial studio in San Francisco, specializing in fashion photography and becoming one of the early adopters of digital photography. He has also taught at the Center For Electronic Art, UC Berkeley Extension, and the Multimedia Center at San Francisco State University.
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UC Berkeley acquired Altman’s work to form the Robert Altman Photographic Archives, currently housed in the Bancroft Library.