Richard McCaffrey has snapped the shutter of his camera hundreds of thousands of times over the past 40 years as a rock photographer and photojournalist. He has captured rock legends in his lens like Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and many other household names. He dove into the rock scene in the early ‘70s, as many rock legends were beginning to engrave their names into American pop culture. With his photographs came many unforgettable experiences. Richard once took Aerosmith to a bar in Newport after a show, before they were famous. The five band members piled into his Volkswagen van and had a night on the town. He also spent the day with John Belushi before the Blues Brothers opened for the Grateful Dead. This month, his Folk Festival photos are on display at the Dryden Gallery.
After founding an early alternative newspaper in Rhode Island called The Point, which dedicated a significant amount of pages to music, Richard moved to California in 1974 to become a rock photographer. He was a freelancer for magazines like Rolling Stone and Cream and he also worked for concert promoters and record companies. Within a year, he became the chief photographer for BAM Magazine – a position he held for a decade. Richard has also published two books and in 1979 he co-founded a non-profit photo gallery, community lab and studio called the Eye Gallery.
Through his experiences, Richard has watched the music scene evolve, as well as digital photography. He switched to a DSLR about 14 years ago and since then he has only shot two rolls of film. He will always keep his film camera, “because I took all my rock
photos with it,” he says.
Digital cameras allow Richard to obtain more clarity in his shots because he can use a higher ISO speed, which allows the camera to become more sensitive to light (thus lowering the length of the exposure). But this can be at the cost of a grainy image. Today’s cameras offer more than twice the ISO speeds and their resolution allows the “noise” to be less noticeable than when it is taken on a film camera.
His latest exhibition, featuring a spread of 60 prints from the 2009-2014 Newport Folk Festivals is shown at Dryden Gallery. This will be Richard’s third time exhibiting there. The owner of the gallery and Providence Picture Frame, Geoff Gaunt asked Richard about exhibiting his extensive collection of photographs from the festival, to which Richard happily obliged. The exhibit contains photos of Beck, Elvis Costello, Tom Morello, as well as many local favorites. He has many intimate photos of the performers, as well as sweeping landscapes of the enormous crowd enjoying the musical spectacle held at Fort Adams State Park. The collection shows everything that Richard loves, as he experiences it through his own lens. He will never stop snapping the shutter, leaving his frames of memories for many others to enjoy.
Newport Folk Festival 2009-2014
The Dryden Gallery, 27 Dryden Lane.