What A Life! Rock Photography By Tony Mott, Jo Bayley Review

What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott - Exhibition catalogu

Tony Mott 2014 courtesy © Graham Jepson and ©Tony Mott

What a life indeed, and a very well documented one at that.

Photography tells a story and creates a mood, it’s one of my favourite mediums.

To capture the essence of music in a split second is not easily done, but Tony Mott has all the magic in the touch of a button.

Being a bit of a rock chick myself, I was curious to see how this exhibition would be curated, and I think Louise Tegart from the State Library of NSW, in Sydney Australia, where the show is being held; has done a brilliant job.

I love the array of subjects covered from many different genres of music.

From the early Divinyls gigs, where Tony Mott cut his teeth, right through to touring with the Rolling Stones, we are given a rare glimpse into the rowdy world of rock’n’roll

My baptism into the music scene started early, probably like most of Australian teenagers watching “Countdown” religiously on Sunday night. Also “Sounds” and “Sounds After Dark” on the odd occasions

It quickly grew and I discovered the pub scene in Sydney in around 1984/1985.

What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott - Exhibition catalogu

Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil, 1985 courtesy ©Tony Mott

And let me tell you, being under age never stopped me. It was all about the music

What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott - Exhibition catalogu

Tony Mott 2014, Tex Perkins 1991, courtesy ©Tony Mott

I distinctly remember every week popping into the local record store from when I was about 13 years old and picking up a copy of “On The Street”.

This was a free publication featuring the weekly gig guide, live music reviews, record reviews and pics of all the indie bands of the time

Myself, along with a group of girlfriends had just discovered smaller local bands through means of older brothers and sisters, and we were hooked!

It was our bible. Did the Hoodoo Gurus have a new single out?

When were The Stems touring Sydney, making the long trek from their hometown of Perth, Western Australia? Was there a new venue to visit? Who were TISM?

Triple J was on the dial and Phantom, Waterfront and the Record Plant were the places to grab your vinyl At a time in the ’80’s where there was a band on every night in nearly every suburb, fake ID, big hair and the coolest second hand threads were a necessity.

Luckily I looked older, and the bouncers always wanted the girls in the venues as it got the guys in to buy the drinks, and so began my musical odyssey.

What a Life! feels like old times to me.

Walking through, I remembered covers from “On The Street” that Tony had shot. I reminisced about gigs I had seen that he had captured with the eye of a true punter, one who has a palpable passion for his subject.

Chrissy Amphlett

Chrissy Amphlett, Divinyls 1983, courtesy ©Tony Mott

And I recognised the people, in many a band, who later became friends.

Apart from indie paper “On The Street”, Tony Mott has provided cover shots for “Drum Media”, Rolling Stone Magazine” and “Juice”. Add to this countless covers he provided for CD’s, singles, EP’s and full albums and you have an amazing collection of shots.

Having arrived in Sydney, Australia from Sheffield, Northern England in 1976, Tony soon discovered the underground music scene Working at the Gazebo Hotel in Sydney’s Kings Cross, Tony would finish his shift as a chef and head out to watch bands.

I imagine years in the kitchen and late nights are what stood him in great stead for the rigorous world of touring later in his photographic career Both look glamorous from the outside, but are a pretty tough gig behind the scenes. It’s all about front of house and the finished product.

Tony Mott honed his craft on one of the most enigmatic front women rock has ever seen, the late Chrissy Amphlett. Chrissy, once she found her character on stage, was a force of nature.

The Divinyls, who I saw live a few times, were brilliant on stage and Mott used the opportunity to practice live rock photography.

His big break came when he sold one of his shots to band manager Vince Lovegrove for $20AUD, and he never looked back.

Tim Rogers

Tony Mott 2014 – You Am I 1997: Great melodies, great lyrics and a genuine rock star out the front, You Am I influenced god knows how many bands. Why, oh why, are they not bigger? Beats me. This photo was taken at the home of Tim Rogers when he lived in Annandale courtesy ©Tony Mott

It became a tour poster and is arguably one of the most iconic pictures of the inimitable performer Tony is a true star, and one of my favourite stories is one of kindness.

He had been given the task of photographing Ray Davies from British band “The Kinks”.

Knowing that Tim Rogers from Aussie band “You Am I” was a huge fan, he invited him along to the shoot.

I remember reading how Tim, who has been photographed by Mott many a time, was thrilled at the invitation.

To me, this is the mark of a friend and someone who gets the influence of one creative to another and was happy to provide a once in a lifetime moment Speaking of You Am I, there is a fabulous shot of Tim, Andy and Russell from 1997.

They are one of my favourite bands to this day, and Mott captures them perfectly. Add in the Hoodoo Gurus, SpyVSpy, Midnight Oil, Front End Loader and the Angels, to name a few, and you have the beginings of local rock’n’roll heaven.

On the international scene, Tony got to capture the likes of Bjork who spoke Icelandic to him for an entire plane ride, Johnny Rotten(Lydon) of Sex Pistols fame where he shared the pit with a mass of punks, and peacock glam rockers KISS, as Tony says, “possibly the easiest band to shoot”.

But his ultimate must be The Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger by Tony Mott

Tony Mott 2014, Mick Jagger courtesy ©Tony Mott

It was Stones frontman, Mick Jagger who gave Mott possibly his best piece of advice, “treat stars as ordinary people and always treat “normal people” as stars”. It seems that advice has proved invaluable, as you don’t get to be one of the most respected rock photographers for nothing.

With the age of digital photography and mobile phone cameras, the whole medium has been turned on it’s head. As live music venues close, it is getting harder and harder for young up and coming bands to get gigs, this, I feel, is so sad.

What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott

Kiss 2013, What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott courtesy ©Tony Mott

The excitement of a live gig is one of the best experiences to have, we need to nurture our music and arts scene.

We also can’t deny the importance of documenting day to day like in pictures, it keeps our memories fresh and alive

As I said before, I was immediately transported back to my younger days.

It was a fabulous time for the live music scene and I feel privileged to have experienced it.

What a Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott - Exhibition catalogu

The Cramps 1995, Shot at Luna Park, Sydney courtesy ©Tony Mott

Thanks to Tony Mott for his natural talent and persistence in his chosen field. What a life, what a life indeed!

Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

What A Life! Rock photography by Tony Mott
State Library of New South Wales

Now showing till February 7, 2016.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.