Obituary: Celebrity Photographer Raeanne Rubenstein Dies at 74

December 6, 2019

By David Walker

©Raeanne Rubenstein

The cover of Raeanne Rubenstein's 1997 book Gone Country.

Raeanne Rubenstein, who photographed a wide variety of celebrities including John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, Mick Jagger, Tammy Wynette, Dustin Hoffman and Geraldine Ferraro, died of heart failure November 30 in Nashville, according to The New York Times. She was 74 years old.

Rubenstein is best known for her portraits of country music stars, but got started as a fashion photographer in London before she returned to New York. She photographed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and other stars in performance and backstage at the Fillmore East. Rubenstein also gained access to musicians and other artists—including Warhol—through Lita Eliscu, a celebrity journalist and personal friend who invited Rubinstein to tag along on assignments.

Rubenstein’s music and celebrity photographs first appeared in alternative newspapers such as the East Village Other, according to The Times. From there, her work was published in The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, People, Life, Time and other magazines. Besides photographing musicians, Rubenstein photographed numerous actors, comedians, athletes and politicians over her career.

Holly George-Warren, an author and editor of several books about musicians and music culture, told The New York Times: “Raeanne could zero in on an artist’s essence and capture that with her camera…These usually guarded people opened up to her, and there’s often a playful quality to her images.”

Rubenstein began photographing country music stars in 1970, when she accompanied Eliscu to interview Johnny Cash in Nashville. She went on to photograph a long list of country musicians, including Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, to name just a few. She relocated to Nashville in 1998.

Rubenstein published ten collections of her work, including Honky Tonk Heroes (1975) and Gone Country (1997) and Country Music: The People, Places & Events That Shaped The Country Sound (2006). Some of her photographs appeared in the 2019 Ken Burns documentary called Country Music, as well as a 2014 exhibition called “Country: Portraits of an American Sound” at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Rubenstein’s photo archive was acquired several years ago by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Rubenstein was born in Staten Island in 1945, and graduated from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. She is survived by two brothers.


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