Jimi Hendrix, Saville Theatre, London, May 7, 1967
Photographer Alec Byrne came to prominence working in London during the 60’s and 70’s, putting a spotlight on the young musicians who were at the forefront of London’s music evolution. The foundations of Rock n’ Roll music grew from its jazz and blues roots in the United States, placing emphasis on musicianship, live performance and ideologies of musical authenticity. Byrne’s work celebrates the passion and grit of the musicians who worked within these parameters, idols who he sometimes befriended, but often chased with his camera and inquisitive eye.
Byrne’s career began at the age of 17 when he was put under contract to capture live acts for the NME. He was interested in photographing the emerging stars of British music during an unrivalled period of musical history, describing his schedule as, “The Who on Thursday, The Rolling Stones on Saturday, Led Zeppelin on Monday — just incredible’. From Mick Jagger’s explosive live performances to tender portraits of a young David Bowie, Byrne worked with a wide range of musicians, revealing their distinctive characteristics in each shot. His intuitive approach was of a rock n’ roll mind-set, favouring candid photography over a studio setting. Byrne’s desire to capture the most powerful imagery saw him battling to the front of crowds and racing home from performances to develop his work through the night.
Following Byrne’s concerns for the growing commercial obstructions within the music industry, he retired from music photography, keeping what was left of his archive in his Los Angeles garage. After almost four decades in storage, surviving a studio fire, a flood and an earthquake, a selection of his negatives were introduced to the world in an acclaimed one-night exhibition in LA. Since then, Byrne's work has been featured in the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, exhibited at the South by Southwest music festival, and accepted into the National Portrait Gallery in London.
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