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Kevin Cummins

The Sex Pistols by Kevin Cummins

Rock Icons

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, The Who and Jimi Hendrix are all temporarily residing on Norman Road.  Icons now, they weren’t back in the 1960s, as they started off on their strasophere-defying career paths.  But icons need images and images need photographers -and these photographers were contemporaries of their subjects; friends, hanging out, taking photos, up close and personal. And as the rock scene took off, the artists’ images were in great demand – and still are.   HOT reporter Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to remind herself of those days and these, now, Rock Icons – the photographers and the rock stars.

One things is patently clear, none of them have fared as well as Dorian Gray who ferreted  his picture away  in the attic to stay perpetually young. Although some look better now in their  jagged, ragged and lived-in faces like Mick Jagger and, more particularly, Keith Richards.   I think, as so many others have remarked,  who’d have thought these characters would still be around to tell their tale, although being around does not necessarily mean they remember the tale.

I looked at these faces peering out from the gallery walls. They appear young, naïve and unmarked by their future selves – no foretaste of what is to come.  And with some, sadly, we will never know how they would be today, musically or personally. Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon remain forever young.

Sheila Rock who documented Punk and has recently published ‘Punk+’ says ‘it was like a family, we were friends, all experimenting together.’ Sheila had met The Clash at a gig at the ICA. ‘I wasn’t a photographer then. It was at the beginning of the punk time – which was a very creative time. I asked if I could take some photographs of them.’  She went down to the Roxy and photographed them in the office. ‘The posters were on the wall –  Clash sniffing Glue –  I got  £50 for that photograph and was absolutely thrilled.’


Eric Swayne Keith Reflection

Eric Swayne Keith Reflection

Eric Swayne‘s  son found the photographs of  Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in the attic after his father’s death and have not been seen before.   Photogaphers are normally anonymous, firmly hidden behind the camera.  Yet sometimes they cannot resist showing their existence.  Keith Reflection could be a self portrait – Eric Swayne has  inserted himself into the photograph, reflected in Keith’s sun glasses.

That was the golden era of pop photography… a time when the music stars weren’t heavily PR-ed or chaperoned and photographers and music journalists could get close to a group and build up  friendships and a rapport. Brian Dufy, Gerry Mankowitz, Colin Jones, Sheila Rock, Kevin Cummings, Eric Swayne: they were all photographing their generation, their mates. And Patti Boyd couldn’t have been more of an insider with  access to two pop giants, having been married to – and the muse of – both George Harrison and Eric Clapton.  One intimate photograph of George Harrison looks back towards Patti Boyd, the photographer, as he tramps uphill in the snow;  another, a personal photograph of Eric Clapton as he plays his guitar.

Back then photography, and particular pop photogrpahy, was a very new profession. They were making it up as they went along. Colin Jones was a ballet dancer and while running an errand for Margot Fonteyn in Japan  he bought himself a camera.  He first photographed the Royal ballet dancers before turning his eye towards the music world. When photographing The Who in a Manchester airport hotel, Pete Towshend was wearing a union jack jacket and it was decided a red, white and blue background was needed.  Keith Moon said ‘I know where to get a flag’. All of them trooped down the stairs, Keith Moon climbed up the flag pole and they got their backdrop –  and a bit of stick in the process.

Brian Duffy Contact Sheet for Aladdin Sane

Brian Duffy Contact Sheet for 'Aladdin Sane'

It is always interesting to see contact sheets – something we won’t see in the future with digital photography.  I am sure some photographers would never volunteer their contact sheets, but when they do, they are always intriguing  as frame after frame shows what they are trying to capture.  And then there is The One.  In Brian Duffy‘s contact sheet for the David Bowie LP ‘Aladdin Sane’ shoot, Duffy is going for different angles, attention on those different coloured eyes.  And then, perhaps deliberate, perhaps happy accident, he takes one with Bowie’s eyes closed. And there it is.

The majority of photographs really illustrate a time and a place: a time when everyone was experimenting, everything was possible, clubs, rock, pop, punk were all emerging together. Sheila Rock says ‘it was like the wild west out there.’  It was a creative melting pot of contemporary friendships.  Another time.  And now they are icons.

Rock Icons at Lucy Bell Gallery to 21 August. Open Wed-Sat. 11am -4pm.






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Posted 15:24 Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 In: Photography

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