It’s hard to believe that Richard Kelly, on the night of his first solo photography exhibition, has considered himself to be on the peripheries of music photography. Walking through Colony, in Ancoats, photographs from twenty years of music photography show a narrative that seems to suggest quite the opposite.

Arctic Monkeys, Old Trafford

On this being his first ever solo exhibition Richard Kelly finds it, understandably, a bit “egotistical and bigheaded” but it’s not like that at all. When you have such amazing photographs that haven’t aired for twenty years, it seems about time to show them off. “I’d spoke to people and I’ve shown stuff like the Pete Doherty one, the Ian Brown one and the Amy Winehouse one and people were just really surprised that they had never seen them before.” Such iconic moments have been captured and have been left unearthed for so long, but Richard didn’t publish them because he’d “always been on the peripheries of music photography.”

“The ones [photos] that they [Arctic Monkeys] picked went all around the world, and it’s really interesting to see which ones they liked and form that I would see them everywhere, like in Rolling Stone magazine, NME, all of that. But then I would look at some of the others and no one has ever seen them. If you’re a fan of the Arctic Monkey’s it’s a shame that you don’t get to see Alex on stage with his Cliff Richard sticker.” Walking around the exhibition, it’s hard to see how the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Pete Doherty didn’t choose these pictures to be the ones with the headlines. They’re raw and natural and deserve the attention that they’re finally getting.

I like house music, I’m a raver and I’m not really interested in indie music. It’s not that that interests me, it’s the people.”

Amy Winehouse, backstage at Old Trafford

It’s an ode to Richard as a photographer, and a person, to see how comfortable the artists look on the photographs. The above shot of Amy was taken backstage at Arctic Monkeys at Old Trafford, which he wasn’t commissioned to take. “She was backstage and I had met her a few times so she felt quite relaxed with me, so it wasn’t like I was papping her.” This is seen again in the shot of Pete Doherty, who Richard had to “wait to finish doing heroine before [he] could take the picture.” But he’s not glamourising it, he quips, “I was just waiting for him!” and there’s a difference. “If I went and sold it to a magazine the next day, that’s when you become a bit of a c-word, whereas now, putting them out almost ten or fifteen years later, I think it’s understated.” These moments that haven’t been put out there for profitability but because they’re pieces of art that should be shown off.

Pete Doherty

Richard is a rock ‘n’ roll photographer that doesn’t really want a big part of the rock ‘n’ roll. “I worked with a band called The Rills recently, who I think are going to do really well, but I cannot stress how much I looked like their dad,” he laughs. “I’m not saying that for sympathy either, I genuinely could have been old enough to be their dad! But it’s very sobering to know. There are still photographers in their fifties who are sleeping on the tour bus and think they’re part of the band, and that’s cool, but I very much like to do my photography and then I like to go home.”

I like to do my photography and then I like to go home.

Image courtesy of Lauren Baxter

The exhibition has been put out there quite simply because they’re interesting photos. “I’ve tried to say on this exhibition, if you don’t know the artist then you will still think it’s a nice photo. There are ones of Arctic Monkeys that I could have put up because you know who they are, but are they really a good photograph if you don’t? I could have put a photo up of Florence and the Machine just because.” And that’s just it. It’s refreshing to see a couple of artists that you don’t know but can still appreciate that it’s a good photograph and piece of art all the same.

“It’s all you can ask really, if you enjoy the work and you enjoy the booze!”, of which both are a firm yes. The booze, courtesy of Collective Arts Brewing, certainly went down a treat with everyone there – I would recommend the Pina Colada Sour, like going on a mini holiday amid the constant downpour that is Manchester.

Image courtesy of Lauren Baxter

The evening also saw a closed bid on a shot of an infamous wall in Longsight, “Free Ian Brown”, taken in 1998. Funds raised from the sale of the piece will be donated to the British Cultural Archive, which is a non-profit resource set up to document, preserve and highlight British culture and heritage through documentary and social photography.

You can catch the exhibition (for free!) Monday to Friday up until the 14th January 2020 at Colony in Ancoats.

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