Michael Ochs (born 1943) is an American photographic archivist best known for his extensive collection of pictures related to rock music dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. The Michael Ochs Archive, located in Los Angeles, contains 3 million vintage prints, proof sheets and negatives which are licensed daily for use in CD reissues, books, films and documentaries.
The Los Angeles Times called Ochs "America's preeminent rock 'n' roll photo archivist" and described his archive as "the dominant force in the rock image marketplace"; The New York Times called it "the premier source of musician photography in the world". Ochs sold the archive to Getty Images in 2007.
Life and career
Ochs was born in Austin, Texas, in 1943. He grew up in Ohio and New York. He attended Adelphi University and The Ohio State University. Ochs served as manager to his brother, singer-songwriter Phil Ochs, from 1967 until the singer's suicide in 1976. Ochs also led the publicity departments at Columbia Records and ABC Records.
Ochs began collecting photographs as a hobby. He would allow friends, including rock critics Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs, to use the pictures for free to illustrate their articles. Ochs began to take a more professional approach after two incidents. First, the Los Angeles Free Press attributed one of his photos to the "Michael Ochs Archives". Then, Dick Clark sent Ochs an unexpected check for $1,000 after Clark used some of Ochs's pictures on a television special.
In 1984, Ochs published Rock Archives: A Photographic Journey Through the First Two Decades of Rock & Roll, which featured an introduction by Peter Guralnick. Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Rock Archives as "an amazingly comprehensive photograph collection" that "offers glimpses of just about everyone seen or heard from during rock's first two decades". According to the Los Angeles Times, Rock Archives "put [Ochs's] archives on the map".
In 1987, 26 years after the death of photographer Ed Feingersh, Ochs discovered several rolls of negatives of Marilyn Monroe by Feingersh. They included a shoot commissioned by Redbook made during the week March 24–30, 1955. They were the only candid images of Monroe made specifically for publication.
During the 1990s, as record companies reissued large numbers of CDs, they often turned to Ochs for photographs to include in the liner notes. Ochs' pictures are featured in practically every release by Rhino Records and Bear Family Records.
The archive is also tapped for illustrations for books — according to one estimate, about half of the rock and roll books issued in recent history include photographs from the collection — and as background photos and research material in the production of documentaries, feature films, and television programs.
Ochs sold the Michael Ochs Archives to Getty Images for an undisclosed amount in February 2007.
Ochs was one of three producers of the 2010 documentary film Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune. Interviews with Ochs and his sister Sonny were featured in the film, which focuses both on Phil's life and the turbulent times in which he lived. The film also features interviews with Phil's friends and associates, as well as archival news footage and photographic stills, including selections from Michael's collection.
- Rock Archives: A Photographic Journey Through the First Two Decades of Rock & Roll. Introduction by Peter Guralnick. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1984. ISBN 0-385-19434-X.
- Feingersh, Ed; LaBrasca, Bob; Michael Ochs Archives (1990), Marilyn : March 1955, Delta, ISBN 978-0-385-30119-0
- 1000 Record Covers. Cologne: Taschen, 1996. ISBN 3-8228-8595-9.