The manager was interested in seeing the pictures Rowlands had taken of Brenda Lee, and asked for the negatives. Rowlands sent them to him, and three weeks later, received a cheque in the mail for $35. Two months later, Rowlands received another call, this time asking him if he would go to a local radio station to shoot another American musician, who would be there to do an interview. The pay this time was $50, and after he handed over his film, he was introduced to the singer: Sam Cooke.
Rowlands’ photography gigs progressed to the point where his work was known by editors of New York-based national magazines. “16” magazine became his largest account, and the pay started getting better. The year he was in Grade 11, Rowlands recalls, he made $11,000 — $80 per 8x10-inch photo. “After doing this kind of stuff, which was just my heart saying I’ve got to take pictures, I said, ‘Do you know the formal, technical thing of what you’re doing?’ I didn’t,” Rowlands says.
He enrolled in photography studies at Ryerson University, missing a fair number of classes to go on the road with acts like Conway Twitty, who later became a close friend. Among the artists Rowlands has photographed over the years: Frankie Avalon, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Slash, Alice Cooper, Sting, Michael Jackson, KISS and Willie Nelson.
He toured with The Rolling Stones and a single photo he took of the Beatles when he was 19 years old has made him more than $650,000 to date. Rowland also spent four years working with Elvis, hired by the president of RCA Canada.
“He said, ‘I’ve got the Elvis people coming in in a month to have meetings and I want to really zing them.’ I shoot these pictures and he gets them blown up and put behind his desk for when the RCA guys from New York show up. They’re sitting there going, ‘Ed, before we get down to the meeting, where did you get those?,’” explains Rowlands with a chuckle. “A month later, I get a phone call saying they saw my pictures and they wanted to hire me for some jobs in America.”