Gary Sumner spent three years in his 20s photographing major rock and roll acts as they toured North America.
He has thousands of photos and hundreds of stories of concerts, travelling, backstage drama and music and he’s going to share them this month at the Grand Gallery of Photography.
“It all started on Yonge Street in Toronto,” he said, while he was hanging dozens of enlargements at the Vernon gallery. “I was shooting bar bands who became opening acts who became headliners. Carol Pope’s manager liked my work and introduced me to some of the record guys.”
One of the first groups he followed was KISS on their cross-Canada Dynasty tour. “I would be booked into the same hotel, but on a different floor. There was no access to the band in the hotel and no photos at the sound check because they hadn’t put their makeup on yet. At the concert, I had 20 minutes at the beginning of the set.”
His equipment in those days was a Minolta film camera with two lenses, a 50 mm and a 70-210 zoom.
In his final year on the road, he photographed 250 concerts in 365 days.
“It got to be too much,” said Sumner. “Too much travelling, too much stress dealing with venues, roadies, and bands.”
His list of bands is long, and includes The Guess Who, Bob Seger, the Beach Boys, Queen, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Who. He returned to Toronto, sold prints at a local flea market, took up badminton and started to work as a child and family portrait photographer for department stores.
He’d travel to different store locations, set up his equipment and spend three days in each city.
“That was before digital photography emerged, before cell phones, so families would line up to have their portraits taken.”
Sumner moved to the Okanagan a couple of years ago and opened the Grand Gallery of Photography last year with fellow photographer Dawn Mace. “We host a gala opening once a month where we change the theme of the fine art images in the gallery,” he said.
On Thursday, the gala will be open from 6-8 p.m. for the exhibit opening featuring more than 100 of Sumner’s photographs as well as local musicians and artists Manfred and Elijah Robertson.
Sumner encourages local photographers to bring their cameras because he will have some rock and roll props and a model that they can use in one of the two studio spaces to create their own images.
“And,” says Sumner, “there will be stories from the road.”
Sumner’s classic rock photography prints will be on display and for sale through the month of July.
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