Connection
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Shooting Stars

Now celebrating 50 years as a rock photographer, the work of Gered Mankowitz has captured Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Oasis. Connection’s Giles Chapman caught up with him ahead of his new exhibition at the Atlas Gallery, London.

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You can almost sense the jostling reverberations, the sudden drops and leaping steps, of ‘Hey Joe’, as your gaze is matched by Jimi’s in Gered Mankowitz’s pictures. Funnily enough, though, the guitar legend’s deft handiwork was largely unknown when Hendrix sauntered into his studio for the photo session in February 1967. “It was just before ‘Hey Joe’ was released in the UK,” Gered says. “He’d been brought over by [the producer] Chas Chandler in 1966 and it was all just about to happen for him – everything was to play for – so he was optimistic and happy. Actually, he was a quiet, almost humble person. “I can’t say I liked his music that much. Not at the time, anyway. But it was quite clear he was really special just in his appearance and charisma. He wore that look better than anyone else. It was fantastic to be able to photograph this fabulous looking, yet still vulnerable, man.”

Hendrix takes his place among a huge collection of portraits selected from Gered’s extraordinary 50 years working with rock stars. He’s lit and framed his way through rock-‘n’-roll, glam rock, punk, New Romanticism and Brit Pop to the present day. Sometimes film or advertising has lured him away but he’s always returned to working with musicians. In the late 1960s, this included a long relationship with the Rolling Stones, and Gered’s portraits and photographs encapsulate the swaggering insouciance they made their own.

"He wore that look better than anyone else. It was fantastic to be able to photograph this fabulous looking, yet still vulnerable, man."

Working with the Stones

“You know, that intense look – unsmiling, unflinching: I didn’t style it but that’s what we wanted. In the early 1960s, we were trying to break the glittery, showbiz mould; the idea of performers controlled by impresarios and aimed at young people. I wanted to fight that, to find a moody, sexy look with an edge. “Yet actually I wasn’t very experienced, and now I think my photographs have an innocence and a naivety to them. I was uncluttered by experience. I always found the Stones charming. It was their manager who was intimidating. I photographed them for three years, including touring the USA. They trusted me not to take advantage, and they knew I imposed a limit on myself.”

Era-defining work

He clearly had great fun in the thudding, garish ’70s era of Slade and Suzi Quatro, but is this really the same image-maker whose lavish work also helped define ABC and The Eurythmics in the 1980s? “The music scene was more professional again, and artists such as Annie Lennox sought people like me. This time we were both adding the polish.” explains Gered. Indeed, the photos from Gered’s later period, including those of The Jam,
Generation X and Kate Bush, are ones he’s long wanted to expose anew. “I guess the ’60s images are the first things people want to see because it was a time of exceptional cultural influences. All my later stuff has been under the radar. When I moved studio, I was dragging my ‘archive’ around in plastic bags – keeping it under the desk, piles of old negs used as a footrest. Even though I did my first show in 1982, I wasn’t exactly fastidious at cataloguing. I am now. “It was amazing to be in at the beginning of some exceptional careers. Still, with bands like The Moody Blues and Status Quo, I’ve been there at a few twilights too…”

• Gered Mankowitz: 50 Years Of Rock And Roll Photography is published by Goodman at £30.

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