The sight of music is as powerful the sound. A shot of Salford Lad’s Club, from The Smiths’ album, The Queen is Dead, will no doubt fill you with as much teenage nostalgia as hearing Morrissey’s melancholy warbling would, and you only have to witness tourists blocking up the zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road every day to be reminded how much an album cover can be etched onto our collective consciousness. When a great music photographer captures their subject, they freeze in time the silent energy and spirit that a musician exudes, both in the heady exuberance of a live performance, and in tellingly intimate moments off stage. Here, some of the world’s greatest music photographers, including Laura Levine, who’s responsible for preserving the music of Downtown New York on film, and Peter Beste, who famously opened a window into the shadowy world of Norwegian black metal, share their favourite moments from their own extensive archives.
Turkish, Brooklyn based photographer, Ebru Yildiz has shot pictures for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NME, Pitchfork and many more of your favourite music mags. She was selected as one of the 50 greatest music photographer’s right now by Complex magaxine in 2012.
‘This photo was taken i using one of my favourite films, Fuji Neopan 1600. Neither the venue nor the film still exist. Even the person in the photo is no longer in the band, but this photo will always have an incredibly special place in my heart because it’s of those photos that helped me figure out exactly what I’m looking for when I’m shooting live shows. It’s a defining moment that helped me find my own style.
Mallory is a photographer passionate about exploring the relationship between visual arts and music. She is currently studying Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her photos have been featured in publications such as Complex, Rookie, and DEVISE.
‘Although Mac and I are both based in New York, our paths crossed in this college dorm basement/club in a residential district of Prague. The image illustrates everything I love about his persona: dynamic live performances, a cult following, and a lot of cigarette smoke’.
Manchester based Shirlaine Forrest has for the last nineteen years been shooting artists including Paul Weller, Jesca Hoop, Morrissey, and Kasabian. Her work has appeared in NME, New York Times, Vogue and more.
‘I don’t have a favourite image of my own, as I shoot so much it changes regularly. I do love shooting Este though, she rocks a bass face! I think that once a photo is published and the audience puts their own interpretation on it, the image is theirs to enjoy or dismiss, it’s no longer solely down to the photographer to cast an opinion, something I love about photography!’
Laura Levine was the Chief Photographer and Photo Editor of the seminal underground music paper, New York Rocker, in the early 80’s. Her iconic music portraits of Bjork, R.E.M., the Clash, the Ramones, the Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Madonna, have appeared in countless magazines, album covers, books. She is best known for her documentation of the music scenes of downtown New York, as well as London, and Los Angeles in the 1980’s and work has been exhibited at MoMA, The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea.
“I took this photo of Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club) and Grandmaster Flash for the cover of the New York Rocker in 1981. It was the beginning of a new movement in music: the cross-pollination of the uptown and downtown music scenes, hip-hop and post-punk, black and white. The session was a joy — Tina and Flash had never met before, and got along wonderfully. I took them to a playground on the Lower East Side just a few blocks from my apartment, where I knew there was a great graffiti’ed handball court wall painted by Lee Quinones. They played, they danced, and they had a great time, as did I. After the session they each ended up using each other’s music in their own releases. Boom boxes were the prop de rigeur back then.”
Based in the North East of England, Ian West has photographed and produced music videos for artists including The Futureheads, Badly Drawn Boy and Hyde & Beast. His work has appeared in countless major music magazines including Uncut, Mojo, NME, Rolling Stone and Rock Sound, as well as The Guardian and The Sunday Times.
“Being asked to pick just one shot has been so difficult, but I just love everything about this image from a shoot to promote The Futureheads fifth album ‘Rant’. It seems to encompass where the band were at that time, the style of the record they were making and what you could expect from their live show all in one frame. The setting and the lighting work beautifully, they let me put my style into it and it all works so well together, just a really great promo shot”
New Mexico and New York based documentary photographer Peter Beste has intimately captured numerous musical undergrounds including the London Grime scene, Houston’s rappers, and the mysterious black metallers of Norway. His exploration of the latter was transformed into Vice’s popular book and documentary film, True Norwegian Black Metal.
‘I spent a week living in Gaahl’s (infamous vocalist for Godseed and formerly Gorgoroth) remote cabin near the western fjords of Norway where his family has lived for generations and the town still bears their namesake. This photo was taken after a brutal two hour mountain hike to a tiny cabin built by his grandparents’.