Roberto Rabanne - photographer

050: Roberto Rabanne – The Photographer of Icons Imagining a Better Future
The Impossible Network

00:00 / 00:53:42

Born in Panama, raised in Brooklyn from age 13, a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, a self-taught photographer who’s captured iconic images of music, art, and fashion for over 5 decades, is this week’s guest Roberto Rabanne.

In part one of this 2 part interview Roberto recounts the experience of growing up in a racially charged 1960’s Brooklyn, his self-directed education and passion for reading, the impact of his mother and aunt, and how his early exposure to Motown and the Beat culture led him to embrace photography as his preferred form of self-expression.

Roberto discusses the experience of being at the heart of documenting the 1960’s counter-cultural movement and the writers, artists, and musicians he worked with. We also explore the commonalities of the movement with what we are experiencing with the emerging environmental movement and youth leaders like Greta Thunberg.

We also discuss how his curiosity for people lead him to photograph musicians from the Grateful Dead, Dylan, Janice Joplin, Jim Morrison, Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, Amy Winehouse, Sade, and Gaga. In fact, he’s the only photographer to have shot all members of the 27 Club – those iconic and groundbreaking musicians who died at the age of 27.

Finally in Part One Roberto explains how his career pivoted into fashion when a serendipitous encounter led him to work for the legendary Alex Liberman of Conde Nast.

I hope you enjoy the humor, eloquence, generosity of spirit and expansive vision of Roberto Rabanne.

Thanks to the previous guest Alessandro Armillotta for the recommendation and connection.

What we discuss 

  • Coming to New York as a 13 year migrant from Panama
  • Growing up as an only child in Brooklyn in a balkanized community
  • How reading and a love of Russian literature saved him
  • Becoming involved in the counter-cultural movement
  • His early exposure to music and Motown
  • Meeting members of the beat generation
  • How seeing a Bresson print made him realize his photography future
  • How he worked in a store to save for his first camera
  • How he gravitated toward music photography
  • Moving to Sf and his experience of psychedelics
  • Living in the same house as Neil Cassidy
  • Seeing the Grateful Dead and becoming friends with Gerry Garcia
  • His willingness to sit in the background and observe
  • Being acceptant of everyone
  • Documenting culture
  • How the counter-cultural movement is still playing out
  • The impact of the movement and that moment in time
  • His views on micro-dozing
  • How he’s using his back catalog to create new artistic expressions
  • The people and bands he shot
  • The 27 club
  • Being curious about people kept him relevant
  • His switch fashion
  • Pivoting in 1979
  • Working with Conde Nast

Social Links


Links in the Show

West Side Story 


Allen Ginsberg 



Henri Cartier Bresson 

Yashica 2.25 

Neil Cassidy 

The Grateful Dead 

Jimi Hendrix 

Craw daddy 

Rolling stone

East village other 

Greta Thunberg

Richard Avedon 

Guy Bourdin 

Helmut Newton 

Alex Liberman 

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