Rock ‘n’ Roll and photography are made for each other. My early visual education was informed and inspired by music photography commissioned by the NME – a British music journalism magazine that had its heyday during the emerging punk period in the late 70s. Along with incisive and intelligent writing from Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, the magazine also hired “hip young gunslingers” to take the photos. Photographers like Anton Corbijn and Pennie Smith, who shot the famous photo of The Clash’s Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on stage. Smith’s iconic photo went on to appear as the cover album art for The Clash’s seminal “London Calling”. Rumour has it that the NME is on its last legs. A “victim” of the irrepressible digital onslaught? I think not. Like many creative endeavours today, we’ve all forgotten what makes something interesting, something compelling. NME will probably crash and burn as a result of pandering to market research “experts”. Like politicians who have nothing to say, creative people are also asking the market what they want to see and hear. All we want is to hear and look at is something that has soul. A point of view that challenges how we perceive things. Something that isn’t boring. Too much to ask?
I have ambivalent feelings towards Anton Corbijn. On one hand, I respect his talent for producing some of the most intimate and revealing portraits of rock royalty during the last few decades. On the other hand, I remember being left gasping for air when I received his quote for a Wall Street Journal Europe advertising campaign that I had written and I wanted him to shoot the portraits of European business leaders. In retrospect, he was probably worth every penny – but it wasn’t my money to spend. Opportunity missed. Worth a read.