A photographer who has pictured some of music’s biggest names will come under the spotlight himself with his debut solo exhibition.

Over the years, Richard Kelly has photographed the likes of Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Lemmy, John Cooper Clarke and even became the go-to photographer for documenting the Arctic Monkeys on tour.

More than 20 of these photographs, dating from 1999 to 2019, are now on show at Colony Ancoats.

Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys coming off stage at Old Trafford in 2007
(Image: Richard Kelly)

Brought up in Burnage , Richard started his career at the age of 16 at the Manchester Evening News, in 1994, as a messenger for the features department.

“When I was at the paper, I saw the photographers coming in and that’s when I thought they had a cool job and I wanted to get into it,” Richard told the M.E.N.

“So, I started to do an evening course.

“I moved to a make-over studio and started working in lab processing and printing.

“I began assisting fashion photographers, that’s when I started getting into the music side of things and I’d find bands to photograph or turn up at gigs and knock on the stage door.

A portrait of “punk poet” John Cooper Clarke
(Image: Richard Kelly)

“That led me to doing a lot of bands in Manchester, and then Dazed and Vice got in touch for me to do their photography in the North and that’s how I became acquainted with the Arctic Monkeys.”

It’s a photo from Longsight , taken on his first film camera in 1998 as he rode past on his bike, which Richard credits as the first music-related shot he ever took.

“That was my very first film.

“I saw it was about Ian Brown and I really liked the Stone Roses.”

The now iconic image of a wall in Longsight
(Image: Richard Kelly)

The piece, alongside other selected works, will be available for closed bids and funds raised will be donated to British Cultural Archive; a non-profit resource set up to document, highlight and preserve British culture and heritage through documentary and social photography.

One set of photographs that Richard is most proud of is a recent collaboration with Levelz, a grime collective from Moss Side .

Richard, who also lectures in Fashion Media at MMU’s Manchester Fashion Institute, says those images came to life after he turned up to a barbecue in the summer with a daylight studio.

Photographer Richard Kelly said he is more interested in taking photos of MC culture in Moss Side these days
(Image: Richard Kelly)

“For me at the moment, I’d rather go and photograph kids from Moss Side than a headlining band.

“It’s just what I’m more interested in right now.

“The reason I enjoy photography is because I enjoy meeting people. I’m just more interested in subcultures and different groups of people these days.

“But, also, I’m 42 now.

“I don’t really want to go on tour buses, there’s someone younger than me who should be doing it now.”

Richard, who says he has photographed everyone from Motörhead to Daniel O’Donnell, says he has been able to get such great behind-the-scenes images because of the way he approaches his job.

“Not to sound harsh, but what’s always stood me in good stead is that I’ve never wanted to be their mate”, he said.

“I’m not into indie music, I prefer house or rave music, so I never worshiped the artists I tended to work with – I just wanted to take good photos.

Richard Kelly’s archive of live photos and portraits of musical stars including Pete Doherty and Lemmy are on show at his first solo exhibition in Ancoats
(Image: Richard Kelly)

“That’s always worked well with the Arctic Monkeys because I don’t think I’m their mate: they don’t owe me anything and I don’t owe them anything, either.

“They used to say that whenever they met a journalist or another photographer, they always wanted something from them to sell on.”

The Ancoats exhibition came about after Richard discovered a wealth of photos in a box when he was moving from London back to Manchester in 2018.

“I just shot so much over the years, I had forgotten a lot of what I took.

“I had photos of Tame Impala when they first started up, I just thought they were an Aussie band at the time.

“It’s such a shame that people don’t get to see them if they’re just in a box or on a hard drive.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

“I’ve never published the photo of Amy Winehouse before.

“I’ve met her a few times at parties and events.

“The photo was taken while she was backstage at the Arctic Monkeys gig in Old Trafford.

“It’s a time capsule, if no one sees them then I think it’s a shame.

“I really hope people don’t think I’m being egotistical by sharing these photos, because it’s not like that at all.”

Richard Kelly’s Selected Music Works: 1999-2019 is at Colony Ancoats until Tuesday 14th January 2020. The exhibition is free to attend and open to the public.