The photograph is by Philip Townsend. The person in the chair is Andrew Loog Oldham, the manager of the Rolling Stones—nineteen years old, younger than anyone in the band. He is going to put them on one side, force the Beatles onto the field on the other, and fight and win a war. He is going to take over the world. “The Rolling Stones are more than just a group—” he would write on the back of their first album, in 1964, “they are a way of life.”
The longer you look into the photograph, the more you are drawn to the black that dominates it—on the left, at the top, on the right—a whole room of blackness. “Presence in painting,” T. J. Clark writes of the blackness in Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 Death of Marat, “so the Western tradition seems to assume, is ultimately dependent on… a place where representation can efface itself, because in it there is little or nothing to represent. A wall or void or an absence of light.” The photograph doesn’t capture a moment; it shows what could not be shown: the future. The void into which, you can imagine, the man in the chair is about to pitch the people he holds over his head.
From Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography, Thomas Denenberg (editor), Yale University Press, 2009