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‘Lawrence Watson: Pop Portraits’ at the Lightbox

— September 2013

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Lawrence Watson, Photograph of Damon Albarn

Professional photographer Lawrence Watson has worked with some of the worlds’ most renowned musicians and bands and has been responsible for some of the most iconic images of artists, such as Al Green and Damon Albarn. A new exhibition at The Lightbox gallery and museum in Woking, Surrey, will act as a mini retrospective of his work. ‘Lawrence Watson: Pop Portraits’ follows on from a successful exhibition in 2011 which featured Lawrence Watson’s portraits of Paul Weller. This new exhibition will take a wider look at Watson’s 30 years in the music industry. The exhibition will be on show from 21 September until 1 December 2013 and will feature some of the best known artists in the music industry, including David Bowie, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Pulp, Snoop Dogg and Grace Jones.

Watson can be described as a traditional photographer and considers photography as a craft, spending many long hours in the dark room creating his prints. His career started in 1979 as an apprentice in a dark room where he developed an understanding of the many aspects involved in the photography process. This experience and understanding has led to Watson’s passion for the dark room and the high-quality images that can be produced. While employed at London Weekend Television, Watson said that he ‘enjoyed the whole process of taking photographs, but always got as much enjoyment out of the processing and printing’.

His interest in fine art and artists such as Mark Rothko inform his style of photography, influencing his decisions on composition, backdrops and the use of colour. Location is incredibly important to Watson’s composition; he keeps in his mind a catalogue of carefully chosen locations and ensures that they are in keeping with the style of the artist. The influences of the artist with whom he is working has led to the success of his work which has appeared on the cover of magazines, album covers and in newspapers.

Watson began taking photographs of musicians when his stepbrother Dave Dorrell was reviewing concerts as a journalist. Watson started to submit these images to magazines, and an editor at NME picked one of the prints and ran it. After this, Watson was commissioned to photograph live concerts for the magazine. Over time, the commissions became regular and Watson made the decision that photography would become a career, helped along by the fact that not only was he enjoying the process but also that he loved the music and the musicians that he was working with.

Lawrence Watson has been heavily involved in the Brit Pop scene, soul and also the emerging Hip Hop scene in the early 80s. Watson went over to the US just as Hip Hop was taking off and was able to capture legendary artists such as Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim and Public Enemy in their prime.

Late in the 80s Watson worked with Paul Weller for the first time when he photographed the album cover for Style Council’s last album Modernism: A New Decade. Ever since, Watson has had unrivalled access to Paul Weller throughout his solo career and has been named by Weller as his favourite photographer. Watson remarks ‘It is a pleasure to work with an artist who loves his craft as much as I do’. Watson has worked in a similar way with all of his subjects, building lasting relationships. He worksclosely with his subject, collaborating on shot locations, backdrops, props and has a genuine sensitivity to their music style, this results in capturing images that are truly representative of the artist.

‘Lawrence Watson: Pop Portraits’ will be on show at The Lightbox from 21 September to 1 December 2013. Entrance is free. For further information, please contact or call 01483 737800.

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