ROCK AND ROLL IMMORTALITY

New Zealand D-Photo - - PROFILES | MURRAY CAMMICK - WORDS| ADRIAN HAT WELL

Ebul­lient crowds, sweat-slicked mosh pits, off-stage ca­ma­raderie, and long-gone punk clubs — Mur­ray Cam­mick has lov­ingly seared one of mu­sic’s most vi­brant pe­ri­ods onto glo­ri­ous black-and-white film It is oc­ca­sion­ally said that mu­si­cians die, but the mu­sic lives for­ever. Some mu­sic might hit those his­tor­i­cal heights un­aided, but there’s no deny­ing how help­ful a few great im­ages can be in help­ing a piece of mu­sic hit rock and roll immortality. Many lo­cal bands and more than a few in­ter­na­tional acts have Auck­land pho­tog­ra­pher Mur­ray Cam­mick to thank for en­shrin­ing one of mu­sic’s most vi­brant pe­ri­ods on glo­ri­ous blackand-white film. The mid ’70s was an ex­cit­ing time for fans of provoca­tive mu­sic. The old guards of rock were be­ing drowned out by new young mu­si­cians, who took the coun­ter­cul­tural spirit of hip­py­dom and sharp­ened it to the rau­cous anti-es­tab­lish­ment edge of punk and new wave. The US and Bri­tain were be­ing per­co­lated by the fresh con­fronta­tional new sounds, and it didn’t take long for it to in­fect the young and dis­af­fected of Aotearoa, too. The main­stream me­dia of the time couldn’t wrap its head around th­ese emerg­ing gen­res, but, from 1975 to 1985, Mur­ray’s 50mm lens could al­ways be found at the shows, doc­u­ment­ing the scene. In 1977, he and ed­i­tor Alas­tair Dou­gal founded Rip It Up, a free magazine ded­i­cated to cham­pi­oning new sounds and, for Mur­ray, to gain­ing new photographic op­por­tu­ni­ties. “I was a mu­sic fan and I ad­mired the pho­tog­ra­phy of An­nie Lei­bowitz in Rolling Stone, whether she was cov­er­ing The Rolling Stones or Richard Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion,” the pho­tog­ra­pher re­mem­bers. “In 1977, all eyes were on Lon­don, and the dom­i­nant in­flu­ence on was

New Mu­si­cal Ex­press] Rip It Up NME [ in style and con­tent.” The pub­li­ca­tion quickly be­came an in­sti­tu­tion, which gave Mur­ray the per­fect ex­cuse to get up close with the ex­cit­ing new acts of the time. He cre­ated en­dur­ing im­agery for lo­cal bands like Hello Sailor, Split Enz, Toy Love, Subur­ban Rep­tiles, Th’ Dudes, and

The Scavengers, and was also in­vited to press shoots for vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tional acts at the time, in­clud­ing Bob Mar­ley and the Wail­ers, Iggy Pop, The Ra­mones, Blondie, and Dolly Par­ton. His ex­ten­sive ar­chive of neg­a­tives of­fers an ex­ten­sive and in­ti­mate look into a by­gone era, the le­gacy of which is still felt keenly to­day. Mur­ray is a grad­u­ate of Auck­land Uni­ver­sity’s Elam art school, where he was taught by some of Aotearoa’s best re­garded pho­tog­ra­phers, like John B Turner and Tom Hutchins. While there, he im­mersed him­self in the doc­u­men­tary tra­di­tion by rov­ing Queen Street late at night, shoot­ing the V8 cars that cruised the strip, along with the char­ac­ters and cul­ture sur­round­ing them. The ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion that would re­sult, Flash Cars, ev­i­dences much of the un­ob­tru­sive record­ing that also in­formed his

Rip It Up work, but Mur­ray’s in­ter­min­gled pas­sions of mu­sic and pho­tog­ra­phy had taken root well be­fore his ad­mis­sion to art school. “I bought a Mi­nolta half-frame cam­era from my brother around 1972 — he worked at a cam­era shop for a while, so he was into pho­tog­ra­phy, but not in the same way as me,” the pho­tog­ra­pher ex­plains. “He pho­tographed cars, be­cause he was into mo­tor sport; I was a mu­sic fan. I’d go to Rod Ste­wart and El­ton John at West­ern Springs in 1972, and the stu­dent magazine Crac­cum would give me money to do a dou­ble-page spread on those acts.” Mur­ray adopted the Mi­nolta SR-1s cam­era as his work­horse for both day and night shoot­ing from the mid ’70s. Shoot­ing in venues with lim­ited light­ing was a challenge, es­pe­cially since his cam­era didn’t have a light me­ter, but this con­ferred in the pho­tog­ra­pher an in­stinc­tive feel for the set­tings needed in th­ese con­di­tions. He later added an Olym­pus OM-1 to his cache, which he used for day­time shoots, with the Mi­nolta re­served for the evenings. Mur­ray se­lected this gear be­cause it was light­weight and un­ob­tru­sive, al­low­ing him to more eas­ily

meld into the scenes he doc­u­mented. “No­table news­pa­per pho­tog­ra­phers who shot mu­sic — Bruce Jarvis and Trevor Cop­pock — prob­a­bly had gym mem­ber­ships so they could [lug] their heavy Nikon gear, mega-lenses, and gear bags,” he says. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he shot on Ko­dak Tri-X film, which he would overde­velop in Promi­crol to achieve higher film speeds. “With the film in my cam­era usu­ally rated at 800 for night-time and con­cert work, when pho­tograph­ing bands in the day­time, I would get greater con­trast in the im­age, en­hanc­ing bone struc­ture and bleach­ing out bad skin,” Mur­ray says. “No such thing as make-up artists in those days, but, by rat­ing my films at 800, it cleaned up spotty skin and made older mu­si­cians look younger.” Hav­ing never learned the in­tri­ca­cies of flash light­ing, Mur­ray con­tented him­self with shoot­ing solely with nat­u­ral light. This lends his im­ages an un-staged, earnest qual­ity, but could also present trou­ble for the pho­tog­ra­pher in less-than-ideal con­di­tions at gig venues. His usual ap­proach was to find a spot just shy of the ac­tive au­di­ence — “I ac­cepted that I was the in­truder on the edge of the dance floor, so if I got knocked about a bit by big­ger, more ma­ture Hello Sailor fans, no wor­ries” — or to take refuge at the fringe of the stage, shoot­ing be­neath what­ever light­ing rig had been thrown to­gether. “I would like to wan­der and find mul­ti­ple an­gles to shoot from,” says Mur­ray, “but some­times shite light­ing would pin me in the one spot, as there was no other po­si­tion I could shoot from.” Due to his unadul­ter­ated style, Mur­ray was not of­ten the first choice to shoot more stagey press events, but some­times sim­ply be­ing avail­able at the right time is more valu­able than the flash­est

“With the film in my cam­era usu­ally rated at 800 for night-time and con­cert work, when pho­tograph­ing bands in the day­time, I would get greater con­trast in the im­age, en­hanc­ing bone struc­ture and bleach­ing out bad skin,” Mur­ray says.

of gear. When Bob Mar­ley vis­ited Auck­land to play West­ern Springs in 1979, he was awarded with a gold record, given to artists who have sold 500,000 units in a ter­ri­tory. At the time, Mar­ley and his band’s in­ter­na­tional pop­u­lar­ity was just heat­ing up, and this may well have been the first gold record they re­ceived — Mur­ray was asked to shoot it, pri­mar­ily (he claims) be­cause it was Easter, and no­body else was around. “Us­ing the min­i­mal out­side light­ing by the White Heron Ho­tel pool was one of the dodgi­est uses of avail­able light I was ever in­volved in, and I had to stand on the very edge of the pool to get the whole band in,” he re­calls. “The ini­tial photo was meant to be Mar­ley and two mu­sic ex­ec­u­tives, then the whole band turned up and joined in the photo, forc­ing me to back up to­wards the swim­ming pool.”

It might have had him tee­ter­ing on the edge of his com­fort zone, but the buoy­ant im­age of an emerg­ing leg­end, who would never re­turn to th­ese shores be­fore his early death, was worth the pos­si­ble soak­ing. Mur­ray has re­cently as­sem­bled some of his favourite mu­sic im­ages (Bob Mar­ley in­cluded) into a su­perb ex­hi­bi­tion, en­ti­tled AK•75–85, which has been shown in both Auck­land and Syd­ney. Although the show has a clear cut-off point, the pho­tog­ra­pher car­ried on shoot­ing mu­sic into the grunge era of the ’90s and ded­i­cated him­self to shoot­ing age­ing soul singers, like Solomon Burke and Bobby Bland, in Los An­ge­les dur­ing the first decade of the 2000s. While Mur­ray no longer brings his cam­era to mu­sic gigs, it’s still his con­stant com­pan­ion, and we can look for­ward to an ex­hi­bi­tion ded­i­cated to the fad­ing arte­facts of Amer­i­cana at some time in the near fu­ture.

SPLIT ENZ, TE AWAMUTU RUGBY CLUB PARK, JAN­UARY 1984.

BOB MAR­LEY AND THE WAIL­ERS RE­CEIVE GOLD DISCS, POOLSIDE WHITE HERON HO­TEL AF­TER CON­CERT, APRIL 16, 1979

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