We Want More: Image Making and Music in the 21st Century

We Want More explores the expanded role that photography and image-production plays in defining music culture today.

Art Exhibition previously on at The Photographers' Gallery in Greater London, United Kingdom.
From Friday 17 July 2015 to Sunday 20 September 2015

We Want More: Image Making and Music in the 21st Century image

Published by anonymous on Monday 08 June 2015.
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Spurred by the advent of digital technologies, both industries have seen a significant change to the channels and processes for ownership and distribution. The traditional frameworks that once upheld a distance between photographers, fans, stars and their labels have collapsed to allow for new routes and territories in which music photography is produced, shared and consumed.

Where once many music photographers worked to briefs for specific publications, they are now more in control of context and creative direction. Musicians also play a more active role in their own image creation and distribution channels with audiences capturing and sharing their own versions of gigs.

This exhibition offers a subjective viewpoint on this vast arena and is presented across two floors, dedicated in turn to musicians and their fan bases. It includes works commissioned commercially as well as personal projects initiated by the photographers themselves and a selection of creative collaborations whose aim is to unpick the genre of Music Photography, which has become increasingly more difficult to define.

The new platforms for production and display, including the rise of the photobook and zines – inexpensive to produce and easy to disseminate – are explored through works such as Dan Wilton’s self-published zine STOP EHT (2012). It follows Los Angeles based indie rock-band The Bots capturing moments of boredom and play during their ten day tour of Europe.

The shift in control from industry to image-makers and the stars themselves has led to a change in aesthetics. Stars choose to work with a range of high profile photographers to create alter egos, eschewing the traditional celebrity shoot in favour of high concept imagery. These include Ryan Enn Hughes’ series Katy Perry, Birthday Gifs (2014) presenting the singer in five comical disguises and Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s Lady Gaga (2014), in which the performer is depicted in portraits ranging from angelic to gruesome.

Performers reach out to collaborate with photographers who they feel provide the right visual context for their music. This is exemplified in Roger Ballen’s Die Antwoord (2012) photographs of the South African rap-rave group and Jason Evans’ images of the alternative UK band Radiohead in Publicity (2001-2008).

Despite the rise in images taken by fans, backstage and behind the scenes access still provides photographers with an element of exclusivity that cannot be obtained otherwise. Daniel Cohen’s We Want More (2010) depicts singers and bands during moments of rest and preparation following the end of the gig and before the encore, with the implicit sound of the crowd screaming for more in the background. Pep Bonet’s images, taken from his series Röadkill – Motörhead (2012), are shot from the stage, showing the crowd from the band’s perspective while Dierdre O’Callaghan’s project The Drum Thing (2013) documents drummers lost in the music during practice sessions.

Studies or portraits of fans include the works of Ewen Spencer’s UKG (1999-2000) depicting crowds at UK garage nights and William Coutts’ Trash Talk (2013), which focuses on the violent, visceral experience of the mosh pit and its sweaty, hyped up or burnt out aftermath. Ryan McGinley’s You and My Friends 6 (2013) and Gareth McConnell’s Close your Eyes (2013) present close-ups of faces of festival goers and dance music fans in Ibiza. Additionally James Mollisons’ The Disciples (2011) and Lorena Turner’s The Michael Jacksons (2009) show fans dressing up or taking on the persona of their idols.

The exhibition also presents a selection of music videos created by photographers, rather than moving image directors, demonstrating the increasing dialogue and interface between these mediums. These include Roger Ballen, I Fink U Freeky by Die Antwoord (2012); Tom Beard, Pacify by FKA Twigs (2013); Bison, Wasting My Young Years by London Grammar (2013); Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Darkest Place by Woman’s Hour (2014); Anton Corbijn, Reflektor by Arcade Fire (2012); Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, You and I and Applause by Lady Gaga (2013) and Seamus Murphy, Words That Maketh Murder, from a series of 12 Short Films for PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake (2012).

We Want More presents an invigorated focus on contemporary image-making and music culture and explores this rich new space where musicians, artists, photographers and audiences are entering into a knowing exchange and collaboration and not just asking, but demanding more.

The exhibition is curated by Diane Smyth and will be accompanied by a special programme of talks, events and live performances. This includes a special edition of The Wire Magazine’s regular Salon event considering the visual aesthetics of underground and experimental music scenes.