The subtle influence of the music shot.
Listening material - Dub Sex. Time of Life
I was almost in a famous Rock'n'Roll band when I was younger but I was continuously held back by a lack of any real talent and the ability to write songs.
Me and a couple of friends would sit in my bedroom, talking nihilistically about the World in the way we thought Punks should do, drop a load of acid, drink a load of cheap cider and then play terrible Nirvana, Buzzcocks and Smiths covers for the rest of the night. We did record these historical sessions sometimes, so we can say we were recorded musicians, we just can't prove it because my dad threw all the tapes out during one of his manic tidying up events.
I'm kinda glad they were thrown out to be honest. We really were bad and I'm pretty sure I was quite a pretentious little git!
What I would like though, would be a photo of one of those moments. I used to have hair then, lots of it, so that would be nice to see. I could see my best friend Aki (once living, now dead), I can laugh at Keith's terrible bass and child's rainbow strap but most of all I could see what my bedroom looked like!
My room looked fantastic! It was only a tiny little space but the walls were a dimension of their own. Covered from top to bottom with the most amazing photographs and posters of my most loved bands. There was Iggy Pop walking over the crowd like a modern day musical Jesus, Nick Cave reaching out over his audience as they gaze back enthralled with his dark and mystical presence, Sid Vicious covered in blood, the words "gimmie a fix" carved into his chest, Kurt Cobain wrapped in the drum kit he'd just dived into, The Damned covered in cake (and why not?), Jimi conducting the flames from his sacrificed Fender, Captain Beefheart stood serene and concerned in the desert, hat held at his chest as though respectfully laying something loved to rest, Kim Deal smiling beatifically, The Beatles doing Beatles stuff and... Cyprus Hill weirdly.
Without really realising, these images had become as important to me as the music. I would lie on my bed, staring at them, trying to work out their characters, I built complete personalities for them from various photographs and when I would close my eyes and listen to the music, I would replicate the stage presence of these greats on my wall.
As I lay on my bed, headphones on, it was me diving into the crowd or ending a gig with a wall of feedback from destroyed instruments.
I never actually had any interest in the people who took these great iconic pictures, only the people in the pictures and I devoured them none the less because they were a lesson on how to be as a famous Rock'n'Roll star, which, as you'll remember is what I was DEFINITELY going to be.
Many years later I picked up a camera and immediately fell in love with the art. I became obsessed with the possibilities and the ability of capturing moments that would otherwise have drifted off into unimportant history. Glances, gestures, emotion and passion. The glimpse of a feeling for 1/100th of a second.
Of course I immediately directed myself towards music photography and I was very lucky to already be friendly with many folk in the Manchester music scene so was able to photograph some pretty big gigs pretty early on.
I hadn't been aware at the time but those photographs I had unknowingly studied had influenced me massively and I started seeing my accidental interpretations in my own work. Here are a few of my favourites from some of the great music photographers. I would love to see some of your favourite music shots in the comments. You can see if any has rubbed off on my work at http://www.paulhusbandphotography.com/
I'm still going to be a famous Rock'n'Roll star when I grow up.
Peter Milne's shot of Nick Cave from the Live Seeds photo. Nick just appearing from the top corner, Godlike, the worshippers attention held firmly with his presence as he casts his spells. Like the best live shots, you can hear it. If you ever see a full batch of any of my gig shoots, you will always see a few that go for this kinda composition. In fact, I even did it when shooting Nick Cave. I love to get the connection between the artist and the audience and I think that mainly comes from this shot and some Kevin Cummins shots.
It must have been very hard to not get a good shot of Iggy in his prime but this shot by Tom Copi has to be one of my favourites of all time. The true showman. The best! That audience would have done anything for him at that moment. A split second later and his arm probably wouldn't have been quite level, he wouldn't have had that expression connecting him with the audience member, his knee wouldn't have been bent just that way. It's perfect!
Anton Corbijn is one of those genius' whose work is instantly recognisable. As is Captain Beefheart and this is, I think, my favourite none live shot of all time. I have spent much longer than is probably appropriate staring into Don's eyes and trying to work him out here. What are they trying to say to us? Is it just a coincidence that this was used on his last album? For the longest time I thought that this was a photo of a cardboard cutout of Don which was placed in the desert but Gary Lucas, the great guitarist who was part of the Magic Band tells me it wasn't. I dunno. He'd know better than me, he was on the album after all but it still feels like a cardboard cutout to me. There's a strange stillness to it.
Shari Denson was a friend before I even knew she was a photographer and defo before I realised what a bloody good one she is. I remember really studying her pictures as they would appear on my Facebook timeline. I had just got into photography and I used to enlarge each of her shots, wondering how she had done it. This is a more recent shot of Tom from The Blinders but what a shot. There's something slightly other worldly about it. A possessed musician on his own on the stage, enrapt in his music as Jimi would be. Proof that if you're a good photographer and you're photographing a good band, bad lighting will never really get in the way.
I've never found out who took this shot of The Pistols. I think it was just a press shot but what a press shot! The start of their fame, daft kids having fun and trying to shock the elders as kids have for centuries. The character, the joyousness and the moment. Steve Jones daft face. I just love it!
Again, I really wish I knew who took this portrait of Howlin' Wolf. The character and confidence. Someone sure of his abilities and talents and not shy to share them. Isn't that the face of someone you want to have a late night chat with?