The Photographers' Gallery 'We Want More'

Words by Patrice Winn

London, The Photographers' Gallery

Across two floors in The Photographers Gallery, go and immerse yourself in asking what is contemporary music photography? Curated by Diane Smyth, this summer exhibition examines the importance of photography and image making in 21st century music culture across advancing digital technologies, and the relationship between the photographer, the musicians and the fans.

In the fast-advancing field of music photography and image making, digital media can be thanked for the ever changing ways to create and share these. Some photographers are choosing to visually set themselves apart in the contemporary music scene. The exhibition, which supports the music industry, focuses on the dynamics of that. It includes both personal and commercial projects commissioned by the musicians, record labels or publications. These projects are displayed through the various platforms of magazine covers, videos with headphones provided, GIFs on iPads, framed and unframed works.

 The exhibitions varied content is shown across two floors. Firstly, through the performing artists. Where a rigid system once existed for photographers to adhere to certain publications demands, it is now musicians who seek to become involved and creatively collaborate with a photographer who can visually capture the essence of their music. Entering the room, you are greeted face on by four massive Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s portraits of Lady Gaga, shot for her two day ArtRave event in 2013. The portraits range from light and angelic to dark, and chilling. Four much smaller portraits by Ryan Enn Hughes are presented on four iPads of an inconspicuous Katy Perry. Each iPads GIF shows four different costumed characters shot on set of a music video which was based on a child's birthday party. Another example of this musician and photographer bond can be seen in Jason Evans’ dedication to shooting Thom Yorke and Radiohead publicity images from 2001 to 2008. Not only imagery for promotional purposes, Dan Wilton’s 2012 series Stop Eht captures the intimate moments offstage of American indie band The Bots on a small tour of Europe.

Secondly, taking you up a floor, the exhibition shifts perspective, and is shown through through the fans themselves. The intimate works are presented through prints of fans taking on their idols persona, seen in James Mollinson’s capturing of Lady Gaga fans outside a concert in 2011, which is part of his extreme fandom series The Disciples shot over three years. Similarly, Lorena Turner’s The Michael Jacksons, deliberately mimics the publics need to imitate the celebrity form. 

The intimate projects from Gareth McConnell colourfully distorted Ibiza images and Ewen Spencer’s raw UK Garage shots focuses on the crowd caught in the euphoric moments of the music, whilst Deirdre O’ Callaghan of Dazed and Confused snaps drummers engrossed in rehersals.

An added bonus to the exhibition which finishes on September 20th, is DAZED’s contribution to the Eranda Studio on the Gallery’s third floor. Find a seat in one of the twelve reclining Natuzzi armchairs with foot rests, and enjoy some of the most stand out music videos projected on a screen, handpicked by eleven of the most impressive video directors today. These awe-inspiring music videos shown stir emotions and provoke thoughts, a perfect accompaniment to this visual pop culture feast.