Rod Rolle

Rod Rolle

It was an evening of local pride to view local photographer Rod Rolle’s documentary project highlighting the city of Guadalupe — “Spirit of a Community” — during a recent reception at the County Engineering Building Garden Atrium in Santa Barbara.

Rolle created the works during his tenure as the documentary photographer for artist Judy Baca’s Guadalupe Mural Project, commissioned by Santa Barbara County Arts Commission in 1988-89 to develop the expansive project. “The Big Picture,” a town portrait Rolle created as part of the project, was ultimately displayed at the Smithsonian Museum: Experimental Gallery.

“Guadalupe is an undiscovered gem in Santa Barbara County,” Rolle said.

The exhibit opening was attended by local officials including Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, County Supervisors Gregg Hart, Joan Hartman, Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino, as well as Rolle’s friends, and family members. Embermill Restaurant on State Street provided an Ethiopian dinner.

“It was a who’s who of people who admire Rod Rolle” said Murillo.

Rolle moved to Santa Barbara to attend Brooks Institute of Photography and photojournalism in 1982, and has distinguished himself in both fields. He participated in documenting Black communities, creating several exhibitions, and partnered with Shirley Kennedy to produce the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibition, “Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.,” at Santa Barbara Eastside Library in 1985.

Rolle’s images have been published in 250 media outlets in 36 countries. As a stringer for Gamma Liaison picture agency, Getty Images, and Sia USA, he has covered significant media events from the LA riots in 1992 to his award-winning photo of Michael Jackson standing atop an SUV in Santa Maria, which won him a spot in Getty Images’ “Picture of the Year” collection.

Rolle’s photos taken on the Red Carpet at the Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival are published in outlets throughout the world.

Also an accomplished performing artist, working as a drummer and vocalist, Rolle has played with numerous Santa Barbara bands, including the Russ Doherty Band, Spider Murphy and the Blind Tiger Band, Crane Crawley Band, Julie Miller Band, Tombo Combo, and most recently with Tom Murray Stiff Pickle Orchestra.

Rolle was selected to represent Santa Barbara in Memphis, Tennessee, for the International Blues Challenge.

For more than 25 years, he has served Santa Barbara’s communities with disabilities through his tenure at Devereaux California Advanced Behavioral Health and New Directions Travel. To view a collection of Rolle’s photos or learn more, visit

For additional County Arts & Culture information, visit