The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Skip to main content

Important Update

September 22, 2013 to March 9, 2014 |

James Mollison: The Disciples

​In 2005 James Mollison began a four-year project to photograph not the musicians, but the fans of a cross section of popular music acts in both the United States and Europe. Usually denied permission to photograph inside 
a concert venue, Mollison, assisted by his wife, would set up a temporary studio on the street outside and invite selected concertgoers to pose for individual portraits. Subsequently, he joined together shots from the same concert to create panoramic images that silently captured the zeitgeist of the act’s aesthetic. This exhibition presents seven large-scale prints from the fifty-nine photographs that comprise the series.

Mollison approaches his varied photographic projects in the manner of an anthropologist, consistently utilizing a series format to reveal both commonality and distinctions between his subjects. The Disciples is based on Mollison’s interest in the sociology of celebrity, particularly the power of music to form powerful social bonds, and how these bonds are reinforced by tribal-like codes and signs.

Seen together, Mollison’s images of diverse fan bases speak of social and class differences, but also of the power of art to coalesce and unify identity. The artist’s visual inventory of each musical “tribe” reveals the way that simple style is transformed into culture and, ultimately, history. The images that comprise The Disciples might at first glance confirm biases on cultural stereotypes, but their cumulative effect can curiously create the opposite reaction in a viewer: a self-conscious awareness that, as humans, we all conform in varying measure to our individual social group and it is almost impossible to escape from the forces of group identity.

Richard Klein, Exhibitions Director.

Each image in the exhibition is accompanied by a recording of an iconic song performed by the musical artist whose fans are portrayed.

Digital printing by Joseph Merritt & Company. Inc.