At the age of 12, Thom Lukas, a New York based photographer, loved music so much that he started sneaking into live shows and winding up backstage. In October 1964, when The Rolling Stones were on their second tour of America, he snuck into the Ed Sullivan Show Studio to catch their debut on the show.
Thom's love for rock music continued. As a fifteen-year old high school student, in 1968 he bought a second- hand professional 35mm camera. This moment changed his life and as a teenager he knew it was the perfect way to legitimize his dream of hanging around with rock musicians.
The first time Thom pointed his camera at an artist was an historical moment in rock history. Thom explains, "On March 8, 1968, Bill Graham opened up the Fillmore East a few blocks south of my high school and I went there that night to photograph Janis Joplin who at the time was with Big Brother and the Holding Company. I was so excited when I first developed my photos and saw what I could do with a camera. I was officially hooked and a few weeks later I started to shoot bands such as The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and The Who."
One afternoon after school, Thom went to the Fillmore ticket window and presented the box office staff a manila envelope stuffed with large black and white examples of his best work. Bill Graham was so pleased with his images that he gave Thom a photo pass and backstage passes. As a high school student, for the next two years (1968-1970) he shot some of the greatest artists to ever grace that stage. Thom's work was frequently published in the Fillmore East Program guide, as well as other widely read rock magazines of the day. One of Thom's proudest memories of shooting at The Fillmore East is having one of his photos of Janis Joplin blown up life-sized and used for a week in a lobby display case when her new group Kozmic Blues Band had their New York debut in February 1969.
During the late sixties Thom not only took photos at the Fillmore but other venues in the New York area. It was at the Singer Bowl on July 13, 1969 where Thom took one of his favorite images. "I went to see The Jeff Beck Group and always tried to get near the front of the stage to get the best shots. That group, especially with Rod Stewart's powerful vocals, was truly an amazing ensemble but just when I thought that evening couldn't get better, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page & John Bonham of Led Zeppelin came on during the encore and they all jammed "Jailhouse Rock" and the place went nuts. I knew as a sixteen-year-old boy I was seeing something incredible and thankfully I had my camera with me but it wasn't until the next day when I developed the film that I realized what a unique moment in time I captured."
In April 1970, Thom accompanied an underground newspaper writer to photograph Pink Floyd while they were being interviewed in their hotel room. The 17-year-old Thom spent an hour with the group and captured a relaxed pre-Dark Side Of The Moon version of soon to be world famous, Pink Floyd. As it turned out, this was one of Thom's final photo shoots, before temporarily halting shooting bands to attend university.
After graduating college he picked up his camera and in the mid 1970s he captured artist such as Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, REM, The Police and many others.
Top row: Pink Floyd In Their Hotel Room (1970), Albert King At The Fillmore East (1969), Jefferson Airplane At The Fillmore East (1968)
Bottom row: Keith Moon/The Who Backstage At The Singer Bowl (1968), Sly & The Family Stone At The Fillmore East (1968), Jeff Beck & Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) At The Singer Bowl (1969)
all photos ©Thom Lukas