The photographer Robert Davidson will soon be officially releasing these famous images of Frank Zappa on the crapper, affectionately known to fans as “ZAPPA KRAPPA” or “PHI ZAPPA KRAPPA”, for the first time since they were originally shot back in 1967. The image below of Zappa on the toilet has gained cult status over the years, and is being admitted into the permanent collection at the National portrait gallery in London. The bizarre story behind the 50 year search for the lost negatives has now finally come to light…
In the summer of 1967, nineteen year old photographer Robert Davidson was commissioned to shoot Frank Zappa in his London hotel room to promote an upcoming concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Zappa let him in upon arrival and proceeded to use the toilet. Robert seized the opportunity and immediately asked through the ajar door if he could take his picture on the throne – Zappa obliged.
This set of images, commonly known as the ‘Zappa Krappa’ pictures almost immediately gained cult status, a sentiment echoed by Zappa himself in 1983, when stating, “I’m probably more famous for sitting on the toilet than for anything else.”
Earlier this year the image appeared in the V & A’s definitive exhibition on the 1960’s ‘You Say You Want a Revolution.’ The proliferation of this unconventional image, with poster reproductions reaching into the millions, has propelled this intimate portrait of Zappa into the fabric of pop culture.
Three months after the shoot, Zappa’s management, incorrectly thinking Davidson to be benefiting exclusively from the increasingly popular images, sent representatives to his studio where he was forced to part with his original negatives. However, these measures proved futile due to the vast amount of pirate reproductions that had already taken place, and ultimately neither Davidson nor Zappa received any royalties from the image.
Moving forward to 2010, Davidson learnt that his negatives were about to be sold online by a Los Angeles memorabilia company, Rockaway Records, who had purchased them from the estate of Herb Cohen, Zappa’s manager. Davidson contacted Rockaway Records to relate his story, and in turn they kindly agreed to repatriate the 10 surviving negatives for a token sum. Rockaway’s Mark Steckler stated, “We are just glad that Robert Davidson could get them back.”
Whitebank Fine Art is delighted to present its first photographic exhibition, featuring unseen original portraits of two giants of music, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix. Photographers Robert Davidson and Mike Berkofsky have spent the better part of half a century searching for their lost negatives. It is therefore a privilege to be exhibiting these original photographs exactly fifty years from when they were first captured.
These photographs are some of Davidson and Berkofsky’s most important work from the 1960’s, at a time when they were working in the same studio.
This exhibition is the culmination of decades of separation from their lost works, and a final chapter in these bizarre narratives.
50th Anniversary: 1967-2017. Previously unreleased Frank Zappa & Jimi Hendrix images shot by Robert Davidson and Mike Berkofsky
21 St. Georges Street, Mayfair, London
Friday 14 July – Saturday 15 July 2017 Preview evening: Thursday 13 July