Modern music has long had a prosperous relationship with photography. For as long as there have been bona fide stars, there have been people with cameras running after them.
You don’t have to go far to find examples. There’s Terry O’Neill’s fruitful working relationship with Frank Sinatra, or the many photographers who spent time with The Beatles, most notably Robert Whitaker and Robert Freeman. There are many ways in which you could compare the evolution of music in recent years to the evolution of photography, with both art forms irrevocably changed by the rise of digital culture and the internet.
London’s Proud Galleries and Sony recently joined forces to explore this relationship in the exhibition ‘Studio to Stereo’, presenting photographs documenting the making of seven iconic albums, alongside the tracks themselves presented in Sony’s hi-res audio.
The artists featured are: Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, The Doors, Paul McCartney and Tame Impala.
Photographs of them in recording sessions are on display accompanied by tracks in Sony’s hi-res audio, which will be available to listen to through Sony’s MDR-Z7 headphones.
The behind-the-scenes images allow viewers a glimpse of Frank Lisciandro’s photo session with The Doors during the making of their final album LA Woman, as well as Kevin Westenburg’s documentation of the 18-month process involved in making Coldplay’s X&Y.
Our curiosity was piqued, so we sat down with Proud Galleries’ Alex Proud to find out a little more about ‘Studio to Stereo’.
How did the idea for ‘Studio to Stereo’ come about?
The exhibition is a collaboration between Sony and Proud. It features rare photography of famous musicians in the recording studio that has been partnered with the sound of their recording played in Sony Hi-Res Audio. Combing both visuals and audio for this exhibition helps transport the viewer to another time and place and enhances the experience of viewing the photographs. You can see music legends such as Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Tame Impala, Pink Floyd and The Beatles in the throes of their music recording and it transports the viewer to another time and place. They will feel immersed in the music and the moment as if they were there.
There’s a more complex selection and curation process here than in most exhibitions – picking not only photographers and images but also music artists and tracks, all of which needed to complement each other. How did you respond to this challenge?
Indeed! The research element to this task was extreme. Each photograph selected was so time specific that it was quite a task. It was a process of researching specific photographers whom we knew had a long working partnership with the given musicians and then piecing together the specific recording sessions. It’s harder than it sounds because a lot of the photographs taken during the sessions have never been published but we’ve curated a unique collection of photographs by leading photographers . It’s always amazing to hear the stories that come out of the recording studio from those who were part of the scene and witnessed it all first hand. We worked with radio DJ Tom Ravenscroft to curate the music and to shortlist the musicians we featured. It is an amazing experience for music fans bringing the imagery and sound together.
Could you tell us a little about Sony Hi-Res audio? How does it augment the exhibition?
To be a little technical Hi-Res Audio is anything that is better than CD quality, anything that has been mastered above 16 bit / 44.1khz (CD quality). CDs can compress the original sound of the recording. With Hi-Res Audio you capture true music as the artist intended – the sound of the recording studio. With the industry having been transformed by digital downloads, with formats including MP3 and AAC that make it easy to buy, listen and store our songs. With regards to sound quality, however, these formats don’t deliver the true studio sound. The use of compression, which makes the file sizes smaller and manageable / shareable – means that data is lost in the encoding process and resolution is sacrificed for the sake of convenience. We wanted to offer the exhibition attendees the best possible sound and with Hi-Res Audio, you can’t get much better.
How would you describe the relationship between music and photography? How do you think the two benefit and feed into each other?
Music and art, specifically photography and rock ‘n’ roll have always been intertwined. I think that they not only influence one another but help to push the boundaries of both disciplines. There have always been photographer / music artist collaborations. Look at Robert Whitaker whose work features in the exhibition. He took some of the most ground breaking photographs of The Beatles ever and really influenced their look and style. He changed their image which influenced their music. I don’t think these types of relationships will end anytime soon.
Do you think there’s a parallel to be drawn in how the two art forms have progressed from analogue to digital, i.e. vinyl to MP3 and film to digital imaging?
That’s an interesting question. I do think so. In regards to photography digital has helped make it more accessible and archiving is easier. For example photographers can now release editions of their work that has been digitally printed. These editions can be less expensive; making photography more affordable. But, then at the same time, nothing beats an original darkroom print taken straight from the negative! From a Hi-Res Audio perspective – definitely, quality is the key for the sound of Hi-Res Audio.
Where do you see the relationship between the two art forms progressing from here? Is this something the Proud Galleries is likely to explore again in the future?
This is engrained in Proud’s heritage. Music is at the heart of our history, Proud has organically grown from galleries to live music venues and crosses over on so many levels. It all began when we hosted The Libertines exhibition in 2004 after an impromptu gig at the exhibition launch with Pete and Carl during a, then tempestuous relationship – it was electric! Shortly after this we launched Proud Camden.
Why did you originally set up Proud Galleries? What were you aiming to achieve?
We launched Proud Galleries in the autumn of 1998, my aim was to bring high quality photography to a mainstream market. There is a simple formula we use with all of our shows: accessible shows around popular themes. We average 10,000 viewers per show and we’ve become one of the most popular private photographic gallery in Europe which is a huge achievement considering our size!
Studio to Stereo takes place at Proud Camden Stables (www.proud.co.uk) until December 3rd. The gallery featured rare photography of famous musicians in the recording studio partnered with the sound of their recording on Sony Hi-Res Audio products – from the authentic sounds of the premium Sony MDR-Z7 headphones to the world’s smallest and lightest Hi-Res Audio player the Sony NWZ-A15 Walkman.