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Dennis Morris : Marianne Faithfull

PATRICIA CULLEN: This exhibition might have seemed sparse at first, but it didn’t take me long to feel the impact of the large photographs of Marianne Faithfull mounted on the wall. Faithfull is caught in seductive yet everyday poses, and does not fail to captivate.  The singer submerged in blue light bar the glowing tip of her cigarette immediately evokes a hazy, sultry atmosphere. They quite clearly reflect how Faithfull was seen at the time – tempting, seductive and mysterious.  At the time of their release, these photographs reinforced this image and allowed Marianne to break away from the gentle persona witnessed in her previous album, Dreamin my Dreams. The photographer in question is Hackney born Dennis Morris famous for his iconic images of Bob Marley and The Sex Pistols. From a young age Morris was a keen photographer, skipping school to practice his passion. On one such occasion the young snapper met Bob Marley en route to sound check in the Speak Easy club on Margaret Street.  Marley immediately recognised the potential of the teenager and Morris found himself invited along on the rest of the UK tour now claiming ‘it began from there’. The tour was cut short because of weather conditions it had given Dennis a taste of the exciting world of music photography.

Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols saw the Marley photographs and a personal request followed for Morris to become the first photographer for the Pistols. He had most certainly taken the photography world by storm through his ability to catch the artists in imaginative yet habitual poses.  He toured with the Sex Pistols for a year, and numerous distinctive photos of the band were produced.

It was while he was with Johnny Rotten and his new band ‘Public Image Ltd.’, and working for Island Records, that Morris heard about Faithfulls’ new album. A handful of well established photographers, from David Bailey to Clive Arrowsmith, had tried and failed to land the job of shooting the artwork. After all the big guns were called in but none were a hit, Morris finally got his chance to be seen and Faithfull granted him a meeting.  Morris knew this shoot could change his life. Morris had heard the Broken English songs and felt he had the ability to come up with something that would do the album justice, he booked a studio for late in the evening because he ‘figured that was the kinda person she was.’ At the time of their meeting, Morris was still a relative novice. He met Faithful in a pub and recalls that her opening remark was that she was not some cheap hooker and that this was going to cost him! They had some food which ended with Faithful upturning the table and refusing to pay. Morris quietly paid and they went to the studio. Just before they started the shoot, Faithfull came out of the dressing room as Morris recalls; ‘glowing like an unearthed diamond.’

The Andy Warhol inspired blue tinted shot of Faithful smoking a cigarette was a winner. The exhibition shows this in different colourways which truly grasps the essence of the sexy chanteuse. Other photographs in the exhibition are equally as telling of Morris’ talent and Faithfull’s beauty. Five black and white photos show Faithfull at her most natural and alluring.

What is exciting about this exhibition is the fact that it is the first time it has been showcased for the public. The only familiar image is the one Faithful chose to use for the cover of her album ‘Broken English’. The show is a great reminder of all things rock ‘n roll, of a time where true icons triumphed – a perfect antidote to today’s mainstream throwaway notions of celebrity. 

 

Dennis Morris : Marianne Faithfull

Unseen images from the Broken English session

Snap Galleries

11 June – 31 July 2010

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

amy fishbourne
2010-06-30 12:48:39
Beautifully written article Patricia. It has definitely inspired me to view the exhibition

amy fishbourne
2010-06-30 12:48:40
Beautifully written article Patricia. It has definitely inspired me to view the exhibition

lilly laMia
2010-07-02 17:46:17
I absolutly enjoyed this article for its factual yet relaxed feel - the reminder of glorious times when being a celebrity was for a good reason. I'll be making my way down to the gallery for sure*

Veronica O'Loughlin
2010-07-02 19:32:56
Very interesting review,and now I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to visit the exhibition.



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