Photographer ROSS HALFIN - "I Became Mr. Rock By Accident"

July 16, 2005, 18 years ago

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The following report is courtesy of the Fiona Shepherd from

Great Rock n' roll photography - like great rock'n'roll - is largely a matter of timing. Pennie Smith's famous blurred shot of THE CLASH's Paul Simenon trashing his bass, regarded as one of the great iconic rock images, could have painted a different picture if Smith hadn't been tripping over herself at the time in order to capture the moment. Similarly, Ross Halfin's image of THE WHO's Keith Moon, taken on a Shepperton Studios soundstage on a hot day in May 1978, could have been just another portrait of everyone's favourite mercurial drummer if it hadn't marked the occasion of Moon's last ever gig with the band before his alcohol-assisted death a few months later.

In addition to recording the end of an era, Halfin has documented the dawning of careers, taking the first image-defining studio photographs of badass LA crew GUNS N' ROSES and spotting the rock-star potential of JON BON JOVI after meeting him in the mid-1980s at a MOTLEY CRUE gig.

A new exhibition, Made of Metal, at Proud Galleries in London, displays more than 50 of Halfin's images taken over the last 30 years. This parade of leather, sweat and long hair includes AC/DC live shots from the days when Bon Scott was still the band's frontman; images from Halfin's long associations with both METALLICA and LED ZEPPELIN maestros ROBERT PLANT and JIMMY PAGE; and - probably his toughest challenge - photographs of MOTORHEAD which won't have you running in terror to mummy.

"I became Mr Rock by accident," he says. In the mid-1970s, Halfin was an art college student who used to take his camera along to whatever gig he was attending.

He started his freelance career covering the punk scene for Sounds, but when Sounds scribe Geoff Barton mooted the idea for a magazine dedicated to heavy rock, with the onomatopoeic title Kerrang!, Halfin was happy to supply the first of many cover images. He freelanced for the rockers' bible for the next 20 years.

Inevitably, in that time, Halfin has sampled more than his fair share of rock'n'roll misbehaviour, and it soon transpires that he is not a man who minces words nor suffers rock-star egos gladly. When asked what he looks for in a subject, he is characteristically candid. "Cooperation," the snapper declares without hesitation.

"When you photograph a band member or celebrity, 10 per cent is taking the picture, 90 per cent is getting them to take the picture," he elaborates. "You've got to make it look like you've been there for ten hours instead of ten minutes - and never let them take over. I did the Edge last week for Mojo and he walked in with four people fussing and fawning around him. I said, 'Dave, you're a grown man, I think you can stand there for ten frames, don't you?'"

Does he reckon that good bands always take good pictures? "Yeah, they do - bands with some edge who look dangerous. Guns N' Roses looked good in the day. Now Axl looks like a silly old man." Warming to his subject (rock stars: discuss - preferably disparagingly), Halfin confirms the general conception that Guns'n'Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash is one of the good guys. Halfin also still rates OZZY OSBOURNE and Mötley Crüe for their adherence to the old school rock show and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Audioslave's Chris Cornell and Velvet Revolver's Scott Weiland as great rock frontmen. "I mean, he [Weiland] is completely selfish and self-centred, but that's part of the job isn't it really?"

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