EXHIBITION | Vintage Portraits

SHOOTING STARS (mid-1970s) | A book featuring this vintage collection is in the works. The Mick Jagger image (B+W version) was recently selected for the international juried exhibition, "Rock N Roll" at the Minneapolis Photo Center.  On exhibit from January 17 to March 1, 2015.

Gary Smaby’s passion for photography began quite by chance in 1964, when he received his first professional camera as an award for appearing on national television. His exploits as a 14-year old model rocketeer won him a spot on the ABC series, “Science All-Stars”. As luck would have it, the show’s corporate sponsor was Honeywell, which at the time owned the Pentax™ camera brand.

Gary quickly mastered his fancy new camera, which soon became an inseparable appendage. By 1967, photography had replaced astronautics as a career aspiration. During his college years, as part of student government activities, Gary began to book national music groups for campus gigs. One thing led to another, and by senior year he parlayed those music industry relationships to became a sought-after freelance rock photographer.

He was routinely hired by major record labels to photograph their artists while on tour through Minneapolis. During that era, two of the nation's largest music distributors (then called “rack jobbers”) were located in Minneapolis. As part of a typical assignment, Gary not only photographed the concert, but often photographed the artists with important rack-jobber executives at after-concert parties.  On occasion, he’d even accompany (and photograph) artists throughout the day prior to the show.

After graduation while still pursued this fledgling freelance career, Gary began to launch a series of photo-related entrepreneurial ventures, including one of the nation's first companies to market photo T-shirts. But by the mid-70s, much like the unlikely hero in Cameron Crowe’s film “Almost Famous”, he became disillusioned with show biz. He was focusing more attention on his blossoming start-ups. Eventually, he hung up his cameras professionally, but not before scoring a full-page Steinway ad in the New Yorker featuring Elton John abusing their piano and an album cover or two.