Josh Sanseri Brings Rock n' Roll Back to SMC

The soothing melodies of the Decemberists' The Crane Wife reverberated throughout Studio B, as Josh Sanseri brought his photographs to life. He meticulously stretched printed canvas onto frames, in preparation for his upcoming exhibition, “Rock n' Roll's Not Dead, It Just Smells Funny.” The show will run from March 10-30 in SMC's photography gallery on the second floor of Drescher Hall. All are welcome to attend the opening reception in the gallery on March 10, from 6-8 p.m.

Sanseri, a full time professor at SMC, also runs a successful freelance photography business, from which this compilation of work was born. The school has provided exhibition space for Sanseri, “which is big enough,” he said. Production costs aside, artists are often forced to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for their work to be seen in a gallery.

The photographs lining the walls feature recognizable names, including Deadmau5, Michael Franti, the Avett Brothers, the Flaming Lips, Tom Morello, The National, The Streets, Little Dragon, and Built to Spill. Music and photography buffs are warned: Sanseri's exhibition may just blow your mind.

Much of this work stemmed from Sanseri’s close relationship with the San Francisco based production and promotion company, Another Planet Entertainment. Since its inception in 2003, Another Planet has hosted such events as the Outside Lands and Treasure Island music festivals. In addition, they are responsible for to a copious number of musical performances by the likes of musical acts such as Radiohead, Dave Matthews Band, Daft Punk, Phish, The White Stripes, and many more.

While Sanseri mentioned that some of his most memorable shoots involved some of his favorite artists, like The National and the Flaming Lips, he also said: “Dealing with clients can be hard. The more famous they are, the harder they can be to work with.” Conversely, he said that “up and coming artists, those who are just on the fringe,” were far easier to deal with.

Though music is obviously the common thread throughout the project, Sanseri remarked that his backstage shoots were relatively quiet; only the ambient sounds from the concerts being played provided a soundtrack while he worked. “Tom Morello however played guitar during the shoot,” Sanseri said. “He kind of provided his own music.”

The show will feature about fifty different pieces compiled from nearly five years of worth of work. The photos showcase the musicians and bands in various environments; some backstage at music festivals, others in concert, or at their private studios, and many more at outdoor locations in and around the San Francisco area.

So why does Rock n' Roll smell funny, you ask? In short, it doesn't! The title of the exhibit pays homage to one of Sanseri's favorite musicians, Frank Zappa, who in his heyday made the exclamation that “Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny.”

“People say that Rock n' Roll's dead, that it's not like it used to be,” Sanseri explained. “I'm just making the point that it's not really dead, it's just different. It's not the same.”