From Tina Turner and Tom Jones, to Marylin Manson and Madonna: rock and pop legends captured on camera by Holt photographer
PUBLISHED: 11:52 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:59 15 November 2017
When Holt-based photographer Howard Denner was given his first camera at the age of ten, it kick-started a lifelong passion that led to him snapping rock stars ranging from Diana Ross and Debbie Harry, to James Brown and Madonna.
Mr Denner, whose work has been selected for next month’s prestigious Art Fair East, began by photographing family events and views around his childhood home of Merthyr Tidfil, in south Wales, but soon progressed to capturing candid, street photography-style shots.
“My mother gave me a Kodak Brownie 127,” Mr Denner, 73, explained. “And by the time I was 18, I was on my fifth camera.
“But I didn’t want to do landscapes and I didn’t want to do portraits, I just wanted to get candid pictures, which was an ideal grounding for what I ended up doing.”
His photography had to take a back seat however, when, after leaving school, he headed off to train as a biochemist at the University of Cardiff.
After gaining a BSc and a PhD in the late 1960s, Mr Denner embarked on a career in academic research in Wales, also enjoying a stint working in Miami.
“It was quite an experience as, while I was there, I saw Apollo 11 take off for the moon,” he remembered.
Returning to the UK in 1972, he joined the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London where, 20 years later, he was made food division chief scientist.
Although he had continued to pursue his passion for taking pictures while working, it wasn’t until he decided to take early retirement at the age of 52 in 1996 that his career as a photographer took off.
Signing up with an agency as a freelance press photographer, lifelong jazz and blues fan Mr Denner began specialising in capturing the action at live music events at major venues ranging from Wembley Arena, the O2 and Glastonbury, to the Royal Albert Hall and Earls Court.
But, while his work was seen in nearly all the national newspapers and well-known music magazines, he says photographing rock stars was not as glamorous as people might think.
“I love the music, but you’re not there to listen and you only get the first three numbers to take the pictures,” he explained. “You’re crouching in the pit and, when the stage lights come up, you get this fantastic adrenaline rush – you’ve got about 14 minutes and you don’t know what the lighting will be like, what they’ll be wearing and whether they’ll be running around the stage and you’ll have to chase them with your camera.”
Rock and pop stars snapped by Mr Denner range from Sting, Tina Turner and Tom Jones, to Madonna, REM, Eric Clapton and Marilyn Manson, while jazz, blues and country singers have included BB King, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson and Jamie Cullum.
Mr Denner, who moved to Holt with his textile artist wife Judith three years ago, says one of his favourite pictures is of the Indian music legend Ravi Shankar.
“I photographed him at the Barbican, in London, not long before he died,” he explained. “And I was amazed when my pictures were used for obituaries all over the world, including in India.”
And while he has captured on camera more music legends than he can remember, Mr Denner says there are two stars he regrets not having the chance to photograph before they died.
“One is Leonard Cohen, as I am a huge fan,” he said. “And the other is John Lee Hooker, who had been due to top the bill at a blues festival I was at, but, in the event, was too ill to travel, so I never got to see him.”
Since retiring from music photography four years ago, Mr Denner, 73, has focused on cataloguing his collection of “hundreds” of CDs, giving talks to local camera clubs, judging photography competitions, working on archiving his photographs and selling limited edition fine art prints of his images.
“Over the years, I have accumulated a huge collection of pictures, and I would really like people to be able to see them and appreciate them,” he said.
Art Fair East, which will feature work by contemporary artists from around the UK and abroad, runs at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, from November 30 to December 3. Tickets, priced £4 (£3 concessions, under 14s free) are available on the door. For more information, visit www.artfaireast.com To see more of Howard Denner’s work, visit www.howarddenner.com