ARTIST SHOWCASE: RICHARD KELLY
6 January 2020
In conjunction with the conclusion of his Selected Music Works exhibition, which debuted at Colony Jactin House in November, we grabbed five minutes with RICHARD KELLY to talk touring, twenty years in the industry and Alex Turner.
The work you’re exhibiting at Colony until January is your first solo exhibition, how did you choose the photographs that are currently on display?
It was hard whittling it down to just the 20 or so images that are exhibited to be honest – I could have just shown images from my time with Arctic Monkeys and still had plenty of them to leave out.
It was good to work to just a small amount however as it made me very fussy on what was included in the exhibition.
I made a rule that every image had to work whether you knew the artist in the photo or not. Hopefully people who see the work feel the same!
What was the driving force behind choosing now to exhibit these photographs, and were you never tempted to sell them?
The main reason was unearthing a huge box of prints of bands I’d totally forgot about – Tame Impala and George Melly being two examples – when I moved recently.
I went through my archives and realised I had a lot of work that had never been published or seen by many people, such as the Amy Winehouse shot or some of the Arctic Monkeys outtakes.
“It seemed a shame to keep them packed away when people might appreciate seeing them.”
I also realised the shot I took of the "Free Ian Brown” sign was 20 years ago and I’d just recently shot the kids in Moss Side so it tied together into a nice 20 year music retrospective.
Throughout your long and vibrant career you must have found yourself getting to know some of these artists pretty well. Is there anyone you connected with particularly?
I’m going to sound really boring here, I’ve always had a very detached approach to photography. I like getting to know people and getting to the point where people feel relaxed enough for me to photograph them, but I’ve never considered myself friends or anything more than someone wanting to collaborate on getting interesting images.
It was nice to spend a lot of time with the Arctic Monkeys or be backstage with Amy Winehouse and shoot Pete Doherty in his hotel room but once I’d got what I needed that was it. I think having that outsider take on things stood me in good stead as artists knew I was there to work and wasn’t under any assumption I was in any way part of the gang. I hope that doesn’t make me sound miserable!
How do you think the music scene – and your work – has changed over the last two decades?
I think shooting bands has certainly changed in the last 20 years. When I first started it was a lot easier to get access to shoot people. The Lee Scratch Perry shots came about from hanging around waiting for him to soundcheck and asking him to photograph him, the same with John Cooper Clarke. It seems harder these days as even bands who are unsigned have PR teams, managers and are a lot more guarded over their image. Saying that I have also changed over the last 20 years. I still love shooting the occasional band- I’d love to shoot Blossoms and Working Men’s Club but I have always seen music as a way to photograph interesting people.
As I’m a bit too old to be on tour buses these days, I really enjoy shooting portraits of other interesting people. I recently shot the contemporary artist Grayson Perry for Sotheby’s as have shot John Hurt and Christopher Lee (both sadly no longer with us) and I found working with those as enjoyable as shooting bands.
Some of your photos capture the emotional rollercoaster of touring. What's your tour survival guide?
It would be the same advice I would give anyone whether on tour or not – stay hydrated and know when to go to bed.
As you would imagine there’s plenty of long days and late nights when you are away with bands so a Berocca in the morning never goes amiss.
It’s also good to realise that you rarely miss out on anything after 5am by going to bed so don’t stay up for the sake of it. Very sensible advice I know but if you follow it, you’ll thank me!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this industry – in particular music photography?
It’s so trite but the main advice I would give is to stick at it and don’t expect it happen overnight. I shot a lot of bands because I loved doing it and supplemented my income by assisting bigger more successful photographers.
I still make the most of my income through advertising and commercial photography and only shoot bands that I like because I love doing it.
If you really want to get into music photography find some local bands you like and get in touch with them. The upside of Instagram and Facebook is it’s so much easier to research and find artists you like and get in touch with them. In short- Get photographing and don’t give up (God that sounds so corny!).
What does 2020 (and beyond) look like for you?
I’m continuing the work with the Moss Side kids you see in the exhibition and continuing a personal documentary project that’s portraiture in nature but not music related, I don’t want to say too much about it as I don’t want to jinx it.
I have quite a bit of commissioned work in up until Christmas and also shooting a menswear brand called Far Afield that I’ve worked with for years which I always look forward to.
I’m always interested in collaborating with other creatives so if anyone’s reading this who’s got an interesting idea and wants to chat get in touch!
We are always on the lookout for local artists of all types to showcase their work in our gallery. If you would like to exhibit get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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