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When Morrison Hotel Gallery co-owner Timothy White ran across the work of longtime Olympic Auditorium staff photographer Theo Ehret, he knew he had something. Ehret's images of boxers and professional wrestlers were fascinating and compelling, but how could they work at the music-centric Morrison? ''I sat on it for a while and started to think about it, and it just sort of came to me to mix rock with some of this imagery, and it started to click,'' says White. The result is a new show at the gallery (opening Sept. 12) that matches Ehret's images of pugilists with classic shots of hardcore punk chaos and glam pageantry — a series of pairings that reveal the remarkable similarities between two often wildly divergent passions.
''Think about all the images of Muhammed Ali that you've seen, and then look at Theo's image of Ali,'' says White of the photo above, which juxtaposes Ehret's 1974 photo Training for The Rumble In The Jungle with an outtake of Henry Rollins from Edward Colver's cover shoot for Black Flag's album Damaged. ''He was looking for something else. There's a beauty to his compositions that just works.''
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Through The Ropes, Hedgemon Lewis and Armando Muniz at The Forum, 1975; Elton John, shot by Barrie Wentzell in 1973
''There are so many similarities between rock and roll and boxing and wrestling — the violence and the grace, the choreography, the outrageousness, and the characters that are involved.''
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Edouard Carpentier, Olympic Auditorium, 1970; Edward Colver's Flip Shot, Pasadena, Calif., 1981
''There's all this violence and all of this chaos, but if you look at the individual figures, there's all this grace and all this beautiful movement and positions that are so inherent in both genres.''
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Victor Rivera, 1974; Sid Vicious, shot by Bob Gruen in 1978
''With most of these, I looked at Theo's [photography] and tried to find a rock image that fit with it. But that one was reversed — I saw that Sid Vicious [shot], and I knew that that had to be in the ring, somebody bloodied and cut up but still performing and putting all that power into it.''
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Hollywood Blonds; Janette Beckman's Mod Twins, London, 1978
''Each one of these images has the obvious visual or photographic reference — the gestures, the posing, the compositional elements. But there's other stuff going on there. There's something there to read into — the idea of one's choice of costume, and the choice of appearance within each genre. It all plays into it.''
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The Maravilla Kid, Ruben Navarro at Olympic Auditorium, c. 1970; The Rolling Stones, shot by Lynn Goldsmith c. 1975
''I'm a big fan of boxing, and people don't look past the violence and aggressiveness of it all to see the beauty in it — the choreography, the body movement, the precision that it takes. A still image actually shows some of that, which is kind of beautiful.''
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The Leap, Mil Máscaras at Olympic Auditorium, c. 1970; The Who at Chicago's International Ampitheater, shot by Paul Natkin in 1980
''When I look at Theo's images, I see and hear the music of the people I've paired them with. Listen to the music of the performers while you look at the boxing and wrestling images, and it totally works.''
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Flying Kick, Mil Máscaras at Olympic Auditorium, c. 1971; Iggy Pop, shot by Mick Rock c. 1970s
''One thing that really stands out is the dedication by both parties to get to where they are. What Iggy has done for years — the hours of performance, the energy he dedicated to his craft — it's certainly equal to what it takes to be a professional or even a semi-professional boxer.''
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Battle Royale, André The Giant at Olympic Auditorium, 1976; the Dead Kennedys, shot by Edward Colver in 1982
''As soon as I saw that Theo image, I knew there had to be an Edward Colver punk rock image that went with it, because he documented the insanity of that L.A. scene.''
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Freddie Blassie, 1969; Lynn Goldsmith's shot of Bruce Springsteen performing, 1978
''In essence, these photographers were war photographers. They were all in the midst of a battle in a way, and were really able to capture something.''
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D-Day, Alberto Davila and Frankie Duarte at Olympic Auditorium, 1977; Catherine McGann's shot of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Ernie from Sesame Street, 1994
''As I started to look for rock photos, there were instantly recognizable stylistic elements that bonded them together, like the seedy back rooms before the show.''
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The Champion, Danny ''Little Red'' Lopez, c. 1977; Lenny Kravitz, shot by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
''That boxer's name was Little Red was his name. It reminded me of the movie Requiem for a Heavyweight, when Anthony Quinn has to become a wrestler after being a heavyweight title contender, and he's given a Native American motif.''