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Bryan Adams on his portraits of injured soldiers

November 10, 2013

Bryan Adams, who has sold many millions of records worldwide, turned his hand to professional photography in the late 1990s – having spent years taking pictures on tour as a musician. Today he launches a new book, Wounded – The Legacy of War, which features more than 100 ‘raw and unsettling’ images


Above: Bryan Adams

CC: What was the most rewarding aspect of this project for you?
BA: Two things; getting it going and getting it finished. This whole thing started out as a possible exhibition and now it’s a book. I’d still love to do an exhibition of these photos in the UK someday. I also love the title of the book ‘Wounded – The Legacy of War’

CC: How humbling an experience was it?
BA: Extremely humbling. Plus the amazing thing was many of these people had never revealed their injuries in public/never been in a photo studio. So quite a step to take with someone they didn’t know

CC: What was the most difficult aspect of taking these photos and the biggest challenge in achieving the portraits you wanted?
BA: The biggest challenge was organising the photo sessions, luckily most of the subjects we wanted said ‘yes’. As for getting the right portrait, sometimes I knew I had the right one within a frame or two, sometimes it wasn’t until I went through [a] session and found something interesting that I hadn’t noticed before

CC: Were the subjects more difficult to photograph than those featured in your previous book, Exposed? [the book features friends and colleagues from the worlds of entertainment, art and fashion]. It seems such a different type of project.
BA: It was very different. As I said they weren’t professional models or actors

CC: What camera kit did you use and how long did the project take?
BA: It’s taken about four years to do, and the kit I used was mostly a Canon EOS-1D and a Mamiya RZ

CC: What do you think is the secret of producing a good portrait photograph – how important was it to put these particular subjects at ease beforehand, for example?
BA: The combination of good subject and interesting setting. In this case I always showed the next subject how the work was coming along so they knew what was happening and what the look was

CC: On a general level, who is the photographer you most admire?
BA: Penn or Avedon, they were both so good at 10×8 photography. I worked with a 10×8 camera for a time and the photos were always very special. You could aim your medium format camera at the same time, at the same subject, and get a completely different feel. I wish there was a digital equivalent. It’s not about pixels, it’s about the lenses

CC: What appeals to you most as a professional photographer and how does it compare with your music career, in terms of the creative expression it allows you?
BA: It’s the teamwork I love, I’m very grateful to the camera assistants, hair, make-up, stylists, props people I have worked with over the years

CC: What is your favourite portrait – either yours or someone you admire?
BA: I love Penn’s flower photos, no one can touch them in terms of technical beauty

CC: What was your most difficult moment as a photographer?
BA: I always feel as a photographer, it’s your duty to be discreet about your subjects, even if they were hard to work with

CC: The most useful gadget/accessory in your camera bag?
BA: My carbon-legged tripod and tripod head made by Gitzo / Manfrotto (Gitzo GT3540LS)

CC: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
BA: Just when you think you have got the frame, take 10 more

CC: And, do you have a top tip for an aspiring portrait photographer?
BA: The unguarded moments are sometimes the most interesting

CC: What camera did you shoot with mostly on tour in the early days, before you took up photography professionally?
BA: I had a Canon AE-1 in the early days and when that packed up, I bought a Rolleiflex which is the best camera ever made. Half of the images in my retrospective book Exposed were taken on that camera

CC: Are you able to tell us about any upcoming photography projects you are working on?
BA: The book is the biggest thing this year, next year I have exhibitions and hopefully lots of interesting shoots

Wounded: The Legacy of War is published by Steidl on 11 November, priced £50 (ISBN 9783869306773). For details visit www.steidl.de

Proceeds will go to charities BLESMA, Blind Veterans UK, Combat Stress, SSAFA and War Child.

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