On Tuesday, 16 August, Snap Galleries Limited in 12 Piccadilly Arcade London will present Picture This: Blondie by Martyn Goddard. Debbie Harry, who fronted for Blondie, is notoriously photogenic, and this selection of Goddard’s images from 1978 has a lot to do with that reputation.
But while he was shooting Rock and Roll and New Wave stars, Goddard worked on another specialty: photographing cars. Those parallel tracks came together in the limited edition book “Rock’n’Roll & Fast Cars.” We asked him a few questions about his life in these two fast lanes.
BBC Autos: How did you begin photographing cars and rock ‘n’ roll stars?
Martyn Goddard: My photographic career kicked off in the music business by complete luck, due to the enthusiasm for my illustrative work by a part-time lecturer at my art school. He introduced me in 1974 to Gered Mankowitz, rock snapper to the likes of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. It was an amazing time in British rock music and within three years I had become established working with bands such as Queen and AC/DC. I then became immersed in the New Wave and Punk revolution, working with and producing album covers for The Jam, The Cure, Sham 69 and of course Blondie, who had come to prominence in the UK before their success in the US.
The car thing came about the same time as the punk explosion. My grandfather had owned a garage in Farnham, Surrey, and I had been brought up with my dad fixing the family car engine on the kitchen table. I decided to visit Car — the groundbreaking magazine I had been reading for years — with my portfolio, and the art editor Wendy Harrop looked at my book (which had not one automobile image in it) and asked me if I'd like to photograph a GM show truck for Car's sister magazine, Truck. And with that, a 20-year stint as a contributor began.
BBC: Do you find those two subjects similar, and if so in what ways?
MG: I have worked in the business of music and cars, but can’t play a note and the best I could manage in a 10-year historic rally-driving career was 4th overall. Both the music and automobile businesses run flat out at 110%, the bands with their constant touring and quest for a hit record, the carmakers looking forward to next year’s model or the racing driver looking for a few tenths of a second a lap. I am there for the ride, and to hang on to document the results in my own way.
BBC: Which subject is the bigger challenge to shoot, and why?
MG: Both sectors have their own challenges. In fact, there were so many things that could go wrong photographing bands or automobiles that I am surprised I managed to produce the images in my collection. With bands it would always be pressure of time, or getting their hair right, or one member of the band was being fired, or the guy at the stage door couldn’t find your name on the list. With cars it was the weather was awful, or the press car came in slate grey, or a property owner would chase us from my chosen shoot location.
BBC: What have been some of your favorite cars to photograph? Do your favorite cars have anything in common?
MG: There are so many wonderful automobiles I have been so lucky to photograph. I try to look hard at all, especially the details of design and craftsmanship. However, my favourite cars are a Bugatti Type 35 [1920s grand prix car], Ferrari 250 GTO [1960s GT racer] and Lancia Delta Integrale [1980s Rally car]. Each car to my eye has great proportion and they were supreme at what they were made to do: win.
BBC: Is there something particular you try to capture in each automobile shot?
MG: Automobiles move and take you to great places, so that’s what I have always tried to capture in my photographs. I’ve never been a fan of studio car photography, so it’s the car zooming past, a mixed sensation of form, sound and location that I have to represent in two dimensions.
BBC: Who have been your favorite people to photograph?
MG: I was a personality photographer before there were personality photographers. It was an era in the UK when there were few media outlets, and I worked for either the record company, the band management, or a major colour magazine so the artists were up for the photo session which could last. Particular favourites were Pete Townsend, who I spent a couple of days trailing around Soho London, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein for the 1978 New York Blondie sessions, Ian Dury for down to earth banter on the session, and Genesis for the tour of Germany for the Three Sides Live LP cover gig. I could include many more.
BBC: Is there any subject — in rock or on the road — that you wish you’d had a chance to photograph?
MG: I’ll always regret never being able to photograph David Bowie; the potential for interesting images would have been great. In the automotive world, I have photographed many of the great cars, but my biggest regret is the art of photographing cars has never really been appreciated by the industry or the public. In my future work, it’s all automobiles and road trips on assignment, plus promoting books, exhibitions, and limited edition prints sales from my musicians archive. However I did photograph a Gary Clark Jr gig in London in 2015, just to keep my hand in!
BBC: And as automobile technology has changed, do you find cars more or less enjoyable?
MG: Automobiles constantly evolve, and my job allows me to work with the very best of classic cars and state-of-the-art modern supercars. So bring on any of these beauties — I enjoy shooting them all.
Discover more of Martyn Goddard's work at martyngoddard.com.
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