The great music photographers include David Bailey, Pennie Smith and Gered Mankowitz who have had the maybe daunting task of capturing moments in time of legendary artists whether it be on a live stage, in private settings, recording studios or simply at play whilst at the same time displaying fantastic colours, shapes and generally delivering glimpses of worlds away from the normal. Add firmly to the top of this list London born Lawrence Watson. Snapper of many standout artists including Oasis, Run DMC and Paul Weller, the work of Watson has maybe become most synonyms with the thriving music scene of the 90’s – 00’s.
It is perhaps Weller’s work that he is most heavily associated with having been in and around the Woking wonder since the latter end of The Style Council years in the late 80’s before becoming a corner stone in the tour entourage and a studio lynchpin throughout The Modfathers intriguing and overly successful solo years. As you can probably imagine the work of Weller/Watson would range into the 1000’s and maybe even millions of photos so it is with this possibly in mind that the duo collaborated back in 2015 to bring together a book like nothing else ever seen before in print form.
Published by Genesis Publishers each page measures 280mm x 350mm printed on heavyweight 200gsm archival grade matt art paper, quarter bound in red leather discreetly housed in a firm translucent red Perspex protective slipcase with each numbered copy personally signed by the artist and photographer. This ginormous beast of a book is maybe not one for the faint hearted, quite literally, but nonetheless, anyone with a dodgy ticker would have their heart lifted to new realms of pleasure once they set their eyes on the wondrous design laid throughout, poignant hand written notes by Weller furthermore the attention to detail is second to none. The package also comes with a uniquely gift wrapped 10” vinyl of live tracks however I’d prefer to concentrate on the visual art on show.
As you use 2 hands to delicately lift each page, this is no book to flick through in seconds, each page deserves studious reflection as each picture reveals luscious layers of scenery, dynamic colours and awe inspiring multi shot pictures from the same shoot in many cases catching the characters in around Weller often smiling and enjoying each other’s comradery. There’s an army of Weller band mates and associates that are included in the book which make for intriguing viewing. What makes this book completely compelling is the level of detail to each photo plus the running commentary from Weller. A header or footer for each photo displaying locations and dates plus often we find Weller reminiscing fondly about the archive.
A significant period is the early 90’s period when the album Wild Wood was released which then lead onto the phenomenally successful Stanley Road. The Weller band were on some sort of trajectory, something spellbinding happened on stage, sweating and playing the songs as though their lives depended on it plus in the studio equal magic was being conjured without a rabbit and top hat in sight. However, behind the scenes Weller reveals his personal life was not all what it seems. His first marriage to Dee C Lee saw him on the road more than he spent time with his children, something he’s at pains to put right nowadays being clean from drink and substance use. We also see the humour behind Weller, he has time to critic his hair around the 22 Dreams period, plus there are fun jabs towards Steve White, Noel Gallagher also a fond nod towards ‘one of his best mates’ Steve Cradock.
Further gleaming highlights includes shots from The Changingman video shoot with Weller making more clothes changes than a Milan cat walk which was something he didn’t feel overly comfortable with having played the pop star tag in his The Jam days he has been at pains not to do the same thing again. There is a plethora of in concert shots including a famed Amsterdam Paradiso gig from 1994 where the high didn’t just come from the gathering of smoke fumes in the audience but the chemistry on stage was aka a chemical reaction found only in laboratories, Finsbury Park gig from 1996 where Jools Holland made an appearance, an attractive Heavy Soul period shoot outside a multi-coloured house ala The Beatles plus more recent shots including Weller looking around the streets of London late at night looking dapper in a grey suit with Wellers quip that he’s too old these days to be hanging around street corners late at night.
To summarise, The package of photos mixed with commentary works uniquely well letting the reader into a mostly guarded life of one of the most prolific and gifted singer songwriters the British isles has ever seen, even though he describes himself as grumpy. As with Watson, the boyhood Jam fan that cherished a signed ticket has well and truly put one in the back of the net with this quite sensational publication. Every single photo included you’d might think has had hours of contemplation whether to include or not but I would prefer to think everything he shoots turns to visual and artistic gold. What more can I say other than the £295 price tag is more than it’s worth, purchasing this means more than material worth, it is a chance to see and admire one of the all-time great music photographers showing off their natural talent, an artistic champion of a publication.
Into Tomorrow can be purchased via the Genesis Publications website