Sex, Drugs, and Stock Photography

by Joel Newman

Photo District News

One need only look at the name of photographer Martin Benjamin's Web site to figure out the nature of his business. Based in Schenectady, New York, Benjamin has combined his love of music and photography over the past 14 years into a remarkable archive of images spanning the history of modern rock.
Featuring photographs of more than 750 performers; everything from AC/DC, The Beastie Boys and U2, to James Brown, Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow; Benjamin's vast collection is posted alphabetically on the Web along with complete and up-to-date information on negotiating usage and acquiring prints. Everything is all neatly laid out and accessible to make a stock-minded art director's or photo editor's job easy.
"They can usually find what they're looking for once they see how substantial the archive is and how simple it is to order," says Benjamin, who set up the site only six months ago. "Every image has an ID number, and once they make their choice, I send it out by CD, e-mail or DVD in high, medium or low resolution according to their needs. They can get original prints and slides as well; whatever idea they have in mind, I'll try and make it happen."
The idea for Stock Rock Shots came to Benjamin back in the mid-Seventies, when after winning several awards for his lens work, job offers began rolling in from the likes of Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. "Not long after that, other publications began contacting me to buy prints,

so I thought I'd better do something to get it all organized."

Benjamin got it going in 1979 with a newsletter introducing himself and his pictures to the market, mailing them out to key publishing outlets in New York City and elsewhere.

The response was better than he could have dreamed. "Musician magazine, Circus and Cosmopolitan all snapped up shots, and the calls kept coming," says Benjamin. "But things went a little south when I had to start chasing my images down from people and agencies who wouldn't return them, and the pressure of delivering on time got out of hand. I decided to stop promoting for a while and try something else."

Taking a position as professor of photography at Union College (a post he still holds), Benjamin began to have his work exhibited in galleries in the U.S., Europe and China. With the advent of the Internet nearly 15 years later, he saw a new and better way to market his life's work. "The Internet made everything possible. I could have all my images in one place where clients could see them," says Benjamin. "And with the amazing print technologies out there now, I also save myself the trouble of sending originals. It's made it all possible for me to take pictures of the artists I love, and have people buy and enjoy them without all the fuss. What else could a photographer ask for?"


- Joel Newman

Photo District News

All images and content © and may not be reproduced in any form without explicit written consent of Martin Benjamin