Masters of Music Photography: Part 1 – Steve Gullick

Tenebrous - The Photography of Steve Gullick

I have been recently drafting a blog for future publication about some of my favourite music photographers. However, I saw that one of the biggest influences on my photography, Steve Gullick, has got an exhibition on at the moment in the Rough Trade East shop in London.

As such, there are quite a few recent articles about it on the internet, best of which is the downloadable podcast on The Quietus, a great new music website with loads of old UK music paper writers from back when the UK music papers were a good read. Although they’ve put playable sound clips throughout the article, they’ve been taken from the full interview, so I recommend you just download the whole 32MB, 46 minute podcast. You get to hear all about photographing David Yow’s rectum and what he really thinks about Anthony Kiedis and Lars Ulrich…

I guess I was lucky to grow up in an age when at various times he was photographing for Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. It’s hard to believe it when you look at his work and you look at NME (the only weekly music paper left in the UK) now.

After leaving the mainstream music press he struck out with former Melody Maker writer Everett True and together they started their own music magazine, ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives‘.

What I love about CTCL is the thinking – you could almost call it a manifesto – that lay behind their intentions; to bring down the UK music press with twelve issues of a bi-monthly magazine that counted down from 12 to 1 and then ended.

In the final issue Everett True wrote:

Don’t mourn for us. We set out what we intended to do. Exist for 12 issues, and stop. Prove that it’s possible to put together a great magazine with few resources, aside from enthusiasm and talent and a passion for music. Cover the music we love in a manner we felt was befitting – words unhampered by thoughts of shifting units, photography that never once resorted to gimmickry, illustrations that burned with a desire to communicate. Our design was clear and bold, rooted in the belief that we were proud of our words and photography and illustrations, and that we had no desire to hide them behind ‘sexy’ layouts and lurid headlines. No press photos. No ringtone adverts. No full-stand displays in WH Smiths. No consideration for content beyond that we were listening to, and moved by at the time.

So we didn’t bring down the UK music press.

We still fervently believe we’re right.

This whole approach strikes a huge chord with me.

As does Steve Gullick’s photography. It’s beautiful, emotive, evocative, gritty, dirty, passionate, vibrant, compelling, strong, iconic; it’s everything photography should be and what I strive to do with my own photography. It’s an antidote to the throwaway images in the mainstream music papers that are just tomorrow’s chip papers. When you look at something like Getty Images’ music photos, it’s just pretty horrible stuff; are there really photographers whose goal in life is to be a Getty photographer? It would bore me to death; if photographic blandness could kill, photo agencies like Getty would be the prime suspects.

If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far of Steve Gullick’s work, I thoroughly recommend his book ‘Showtime’. If you’re cheap (like me…) you can get it from for a bargain price of US$3.95 (+P&P…)

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