Gary Sumner spent three years in his twenties photographing major rock and roll bands as they toured North America.
He has thousands of photos and hundreds of stories of concerts, travel, behind-the-scenes 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 says, as he hung dozens of enlargements at the Vernon Gallery. “I was shooting bar bands that became first acts that became headliners. Carol Pope’s manager liked my work and introduced me to some of the record guys.
One of the first bands he followed was KISS on their Dynasty tour across Canada. “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 when checking the sound as they hadn’t made up yet. At the concert, I had 20 minutes at the start of the set.
His equipment at the time was a Minolta camera with two lenses, a 50 mm and a 70-210 zoom.
In his final year on the road, he photographed 250 gigs in 365 days.
“It must have been too much,” Sumner said. “Too much travelling, too much stress with venues, roadies and bands.”
His list of bands is extensive 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 began working as a department store child and family portrait photographer.
He would go to different stores, set up his gear, and spend three days in each city.
“This was before the emergence of digital photography, before cell phones, so families would line up to have their picture taken.”
Sumner moved to the Okanagan a few years ago and opened the Grand Gallery of Photography last year with fellow photographer Dawn Mace. “We have a gala opening once a month where we change the theme of the art images in the gallery,” he said.
On Thursday, the gala will be open from 6-8 p.m. for the opening of the exhibition featuring more than 100 photographs by Sumner as well as local musicians and artists Manfred and Elijah Robertson.
Sumner encourages local photographers to bring their cameras as he will have rock and roll props and a model they can use at one of the two studios to create their own images.
“And,” Sumner said, “there will be stories down the road.”
Sumner’s classic rock photography prints will be on display and for sale throughout July.
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