Leica Gallery London will host a collection of legendary Canadian musician Bryan Adams’ most recognised portraits, as well as a group of brand-new photographs. Selma Day asks the questions
A self-taught photographer, Bryan Adams began by documenting his own work on tour before he became a professional photographer in the late 1990s and, in 2015, he was inducted into the Royal Photographic Society.
Adams’ work includes portraits of fellow creatives and important individuals, including acclaimed musicians, actors, models, sportsmen and political figures, as well as the British Royal family – his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is currently held in the National Portrait Gallery collection, alongside more than 20 more of his portraits.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
My uncle worked at Ilford film company, and he would send us canisters of film, so my curiosity stemmed from that initially. From there it was the fascination of getting to work with photographers and watching the process. I’ll always credit Herb Ritts for letting me work at his studio in the 90s – that changed everything.
What was the first camera you bought?
It was a canon AE1, I bought it for my first solo tour back in 1980
What was the turning point in your career as a photographer?
Finding good printers was a huge turning point – every time a box of prints came to the house, it was like Christmas. Mike Spry used to do my black and white work and Brian Dowling did the colour prints – both of them are London-based master printers. Suddenly, my average negatives got turned into something interesting.
Is there a parallel between writing music and photography? Is the creative process similar?
Perhaps the only thing is that you start from nothing in both mediums, and sometimes you end up with something original.
In an interview you said you had several guitars and each brought something different to the table – is it the same with cameras?
Oh yes, most definitely. I’ve tried so many different cameras over the years, but without question, my fave were my old rolleiflex cameras.
Which photographers do you admire or have inspired you?
I’m inspired by and admire so many, and many of them are British; Solve Sundsbo, David Sims, Tim Walker, Nick Knight – all of them are brilliant modern photographers but, of course, I love the classic NY ones too, like Avedon and Penn. I met Penn at his studio in NYC before he died, he was THE master.
Which of your own photographs are you most proud of?
Oddly I’m proudest of my family portraits, and I wish I’d taken more of my grandparents.
Are there any particular images relating to the music world that stand out for you and why?
Avedon’s Beatle portraits for The White Album are incredible – they’re up there with the Bailey photos.
What are your favourite album covers?
The portrait of Janis Joplin’s album “Pearl”. I was very young when I saw that photo and up until that time I’d never seen a woman look like that. She completely blew my mind, no one looked like Janis. She was a total original.
Is there anyone you haven’t photographed that you would like to?
Yes, of course, there are too many to list here.
What gives you the biggest buzz – music or photography?
Music of course is the biggest buzz, but photos can be too. For example, putting together Rammstein’s album cover a couple of years ago was great fun.
If were on a desert island and had to choose between taking either a guitar or a camera, which one would it be?
Neither would be much use on a desert island – the camera would run out of batteries and the guitar strings would rust! I think I’d prefer a good knife!
How and when did you start working with Atlas Gallery – and Leica?
I was introduced to them a couple of years ago when they exhibited my “homeless” portraits.
What do you like about Mayfair? Favourite shops/designers/restaurants/art galleries etc?
I used to go up there on my bike to meet people for dinner, and sometimes visit a club or two. I love how it is so close to Hyde Park – you’re very lucky if you can live there.
And in Chelsea?
For the same reasons, it’s easy to bike around and it has fabulous restaurants and shops…it’s also close to Stamford Bridge. Say no more.
What’s next? What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m touring all summer in America and might squeeze in a photo shoot or two if I’m lucky. I’ll be back for the opening of my “Colour” series of photos at the Atlas Gallery and Classics at Leica Gallery London opening on the same evening and very much looking forward to that.
Bryan Adams: Classics is on until August 31 at Leica Gallery (64-66 Duke Street), in partnership with ATLAS Gallery (49 Dorset Street), which will be showing a corresponding exhibition focusing on his most recent work, with each gallery showing their own curated selection.