This week theprintspace’s Harry Rose talks to Lawrence Watson, who has an exhibition opening on June 17 at theprintspace Gallery, the exhibition will continue until June 29. ‘In Darkness, Light’ partners up with Spitalfields Crypt Trust charity that helps those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Hey Lawrence, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Does it feel poignant having a show close to Old Street where you first got into photography as an apprentice at a darkroom?
Yes I’ve always had soft spot for East London, as it was were I first worked in Scrutton Street all those years ago, that’s why I was happy to work on the project, when I set up my own darkroom it was just opposite where SCT is now based in Acorn house on Shoreditch High street.
You’re well known for your portraits of celebrities and icons, from David Bowie, Cher to Morrissey. What initially drew you to the world of music and having the opportunity to photograph musical giants?
Being a failed musician with no sense of rhythm put pay to me playing, the next best thing was to photograph them, six weeks of trying to learn “Walk on the Wildside" on bass with the UK Subs bass player a punk band suggested photography might be more my thing. Then I fortunately began shooting live shows for the NME as they say the rest is.
The exhibition at theprintspace compromises of portraits you have taken of famous faces for Spitalfields Crypt Trust, how did this partnership between you and the charity come about?
I was at a photographic opening chatting to a lady called Francine who had links to SCT; I mentioned it would be good to do a project outside the music world. She then came back to me about SCT 50 year anniversary project would I be interested in shooting some portraits of residents which then grew out to include some more well known faces. I liked the sound of it and was allowed to shoot as I wished, I chose to shoot just 2 Rolls of 120 Black white film against a black backdrop shooting just the faces basically keeping any distractions to a minimum i.e. location and clothes it was just about the Human face lighting very simply as well.
You mention a project outside of the music world, have you any plans to breach different area’s of portraiture, perhaps something else other than music which hold a significance?
I have a few bits I’m considering especially as I have watched the music industry shrink and its needs and uses for photographs diminished, saying that vinyl's been making a comeback. I would love more portrait jobs outside music, as most of the time photographers are pigeon holed he does music he does fashion etc. I photograph people.
Well-known faces such as Ken Loach, Noel Gallagher and Denise Welch are in this exhibition. Did your way of working and taking peoples portraits differ from other shoots given the nature and purpose of these photographs?
Not really apart from keeping the set up consistent for all the subjects, so they sit together as a body of portraits.
Has there been a personal hero of yours you have not yet had the chance of meeting and photographing? If so, do you think of ways you’d take their photograph?
Shooting Ken Loach comes pretty close he made one of my favorite films called “Kes”. I’ve been lucky with all the formidable musicians I have been fortunate to shoot, if I was to think of someone it would have been the sadly departed Muhammad Ali. Regarding the approach to shooting, I have a very similar approach to most of the people I shoot in the documentary vein where possible honest unfussy set ups, I grew up looking through those great collections of the Magnum photographers and took great inspiration from them.
What’s next for you project wise?
I have a show in Manchester of Manchester bands opened on the 9th of June in Salford at a non-profit gallery called Future Artists, helping young artists in Manchester area. Also a book coming out on The Charterhouse for the museum based in Smithfield London a documentary project on a day in the life of the Brothers as they call the residents, which was something outside the music world and great to work on the place is over 500 years old and has a remarkable history lost in time in the centre of London. Then hopefully working on Noel Gallagher’s next album I did the previous 2 for "The High flying birds” as he calls his solo material.