Brad Elterman took this stunning shot of Joan Jett, and many others, back in summer of 1977. In the days before stylists and Photoshop made everyone look perfect, not to mention the same, he and other great photographers — Jenny Lens, Donna Santisi, Richard Creamer — captured the Runaways in all their raw rebel power. Joan, Elterman says, had that “thing” about her: star power, charisma, magnetism. He said he felt that way only a couple times when he was shooting — also, for Bob Dylan and Bobby DeNiro, together. Joan, she shone all on her own. “Joan had this essence of coolness which I’d never seen before,” he told me, as we looked through old photos at his Beverly Glen bungalow.
You can see this picture and hundreds more on Brad’s Tumblr blog. A funny thing happened on the photographer’s way to the social media forum: Some 25 years after he put away not only his old photos, but his old cameras, he dusted the pix off again, scanned them, and put them online. Suddenly, he found a whole new audience — and among all his celebrity photos, the Runaways are the top draw. Within two hours of posting this shot, it had 100 comments.
What’s more, Elterman has dusted off his cameras too. Despite the fact that he made more money shooting for magazines — particularly German, Swedish, and Japanese rock glossies — in the 1970s than he could possibly make in the digital age, the direct contact with a new audience has inspired him.
Not that there was anything quite like the Sunset Strip in the mid-’70s, as he documents in his decadent documentary coffee table book, Like It Was Yesterday. “There was a wonderful vibe. I’d come in from Sherman Oaks, drive over Benedict Canyon, get to Sunset, make a left and head to the strip,” he told me . “I felt like I’d entered a different civilization. The kids were cool, the fashion — it was nothing like I’d ever seen before.”