Name a successful rock and roll band from the last fifteen years. Got one? Good. Ami Barwell has stolen their soul, as the old myth goes. Returning to her homeland in the North of England, having photographed musicians all over the world, we sat down to ask "the Rock and Roll photographer" a few questions ahead of her Fossgate Social retrospective exhibition of her work to date. The exhibition runs from Friday 3 October to the 3 November at The Fossgate Social.
This is your first exhibition since moving back to the North: what can we expect to see adorning the walls of Fossgate Social from 3 October?
It’s a collection of my best and most famous work. The walls of the exhibition will be adorned with photographs of Rock ‘n’ Roll royalty. Intimate portraits of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, the legendary Ian Brown, through to Iggy Pop, Josh Homme, Lenny Kravitz, The White Stripes, Johnny Marr, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Fish from Marillion and Motorhead’s Lemmy will slap you in the face as soon as you enter the building. It’ll also include iconic album and single covers I’ve done: The Cribs, Interpol, The Cooper Temple Clause, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Sandi Thom.
What came first, music or photography? Were the two always destined to go hand in hand for you?
Music came first as I was always surrounded by it as a kid. My Dad was a folk musician and my Mum always played me records: Dylan, The Supremes, Harry Chapin, Leo Sayer, Dr Hook, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Carly Simon, The Beach Boys. I started carrying a camera around from around the age of 7. Combining my two loves was an obvious choice for me.
Who were the first live band you shot and where was the show?
Pavement at Hull Adelphi.
Live music is often a catalyst for a lot of music photographers; do you think that you will always want to shoot live shows?
Yes. Portrait shoots are really intimate and important to me and I love shooting people one on one, but gig photography has a different intensity – I love it. I’ll always shoot the music I love.
Touring with a band is a rather intense experience, do you feel that the time you spent on the road with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club impacted your understanding of what music photography can be?
I understood it long before I met those boys. I taught them everything they know about Rock ‘n’ Roll.
With some impressive clothing brands on your client list already such as Ben Sherman and Converse, does the future hold more collaborations like these?
I’m collaborating with a company in LA - launching a new clothing range in 2015.
Do fashion and music photography go hand in hand for you?
Not at all. Music photography isn’t about being fashionable and ‘cool’, it’s about wearing what the fuck you want… as long as it’s black!
During the last ten years so much has changed within the music industry, has your style adapted/grown over the course of that period?
My style has grown and I’ve perfected my techniques. I’ve always stayed true to myself and the way I shoot. I hate digital photography and shoot on film and I will always shoot black & white for live shots – colour live shots just look shit! The industry is coming around full-circle, there’s so many ‘photographers’ out there and it’s all a bit stale and average, my clients want something different and distinctive – that’s why they hire me.
Having worked with some of the biggest bands and brands in the world over the last ten years, what lays ahead for you as we rattle closer to 2015?
2015 is already looking to be really exciting; I’ve got my new clothing range happening and also a collaboration with a local woodworker. I’ve got an album cover shoot scheduled for November, the album will be out in March 2015 and is tipped to be massive – which is great to be involved with. My online shop has just launched and I’m going to be expanding in 2015 with my work going into more galleries and retail outlets WorldwideAmi Barwell