JiLL fur­manovsky

Leg­endary pho­tog­ra­pher of rock stars Jill Fur­manovsky takes us on a tour of her workspace in Lon­don’s Ken­tish Town

Professional Photography - - Contributors -

The leg­endary pho­tog­ra­pher of rock stars in­clud­ing Oa­sis, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones takes us on a tour of her workspace in Lon­don’s Ken­tish Town.

Jill Fur­manovsky is a leg­end in the world of rock pho­tog­ra­phy. There’s hardly a star she hasn’t pho­tographed. Her im­ages of Oa­sis, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and masses of oth­ers are cen­tral to our vis­ual un­der­stand­ing of the icons of our time. Fur­manovsky’s first stu­dio was in Prim­rose Hill, Lon­don, “around the cor­ner from Bai­ley ac­tu­ally”, and she has been based in her cur­rent place in Ken­tish Town since 2002. Be­hind big, blue roll shut­ters on an unas­sum­ing road, Fur­manovksy and her small team of as­sis­tants look af­ter Rockarchive, the rock pho­tog­ra­pher’s col­lec­tive she set up 19 years ago, as well as her own col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs. There are two spa­ces. One is for Rockarchive and features wooden floors, desks, phones, gor­geous framed prints and the dark­room, a small heaven smelling slightly of fixer in one cor­ner. The other is Fur­manovsky’s per­sonal of­fice, archive and

shoot­ing area. There is a white col­orama held up with auto-poles, boxes of gels, framed prints and posters, scat­ter­ings of la­bels such as ‘Punk’ and ‘Oa­sis’ on print tubes, and posters with Liam and Noel’s faces look­ing mood­ily 1990s, next to a glass cabi­net of cam­era cu­riosi­ties and a big light­box. Fur­manovsky ap­pears as al­most the an­tithe­sis of her larger-than-life sub­jects; a small, neat and thought­ful woman who likes dogs, cats, and tea. She mod­estly at­tributes her ca­reer to luck, along with an in­stant love for the cam­era. In 1972, she was study­ing graphic de­sign and tex­tiles at Cen­tral School of Art & De­sign (now St Mar­tins). “At that time if you wanted to study pho­tog­ra­phy, there was a post grad at the Royal Col­lege or a course at LCC with blokes in lab­coats. I didn’t want to do ei­ther of those.” But there was a two-week ba­sics course at The Cen­tral. “On the sec­ond day I got a col­lege cam­era for the week­end, so I went and shot the prog-rock group Yes.” That day, she landed her­self a job at the Rain­bow The­atre shoot­ing bands, and she’s never looked back. “Of­ten in those first 10 years or so, I had a lot of ac­cess but I wasn’t very skilled. But I did get much bet­ter quite quickly. I used a Pen­tax, and then I switched to Nikon, and then to the Has­sel­blads.” The clas­sic Has­sel­blad im­age is a Fur­manovsky trade­mark; many of her best-known pho­to­graphs were shot with a 500c, in­clud­ing her award-win­ning por­trait of Char­lie Watts of The Stones. Hav­ing be­gun with 35mm SLRs, mov­ing to medium for­mat was a turn­ing point. “Shoot­ing Has­sel­blad sym­bol­ised to me that I was ac­tu­ally a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher who knew what she was do­ing. I al­ways liked the two lit­tle dinks on the side, on the left of the frame.”

Fur­manovsky still shoots reg­u­larly, but is also con­cen­trat­ing on cat­a­logu­ing and scan­ning her vast archive of neg­a­tives, which line the walls of her of­fice space in black ring-binders. There are thou­sands of im­ages, many never seen be­fore, and it was a de­sire to bring pre­vi­ously un­seen work to an au­di­ence that prompted her to set up Rockarchive in 1998. The col­lec­tive makes high qual­ity prints of fa­mous and less well-known rock im­ages ac­ces­si­ble to col­lec­tors and fans, and rep­re­sents the work of the best pho­tog­ra­phers in the busi­ness. Un­for­tu­nately though, it has kept Fur­manovsky from her own archive. “I re­cently thought per­haps I’d bet­ter get on with it. I re­ally do have the most enor­mous archive, of which about 90 per cent is crap. I’m as­ton­ished at how badly I shot. I got very good around the time of Oa­sis…” Ap­par­ently Noel Gal­lagher thought she was a caterer who hap­pened to take good pic­tures. As we know, she does take ex­traor­di­nar­ily good pic­tures. And the joy of the cam­era has not di­min­ished since she first started. “Things are ex­cit­ing. Things fall into place; you see things. Also, pho­tog­ra­phy stops you want­ing any­thing. I hardly ever want any­thing be­cause I think some­thing like, ‘Oh, I re­ally love those shoes, so I’ll take a pho­to­graph,” she laughs. “You don’t need to buy them. For me, a pho­to­graph seems to suf­fice.”

See more of Fur­manovsky’s work at rockarchive.com

“That’s ac­tu­ally Chrissie Hynde’s favourite pic­ture of James Brown, she has it in her house. It was shot in 1985 dur­ing doc­u­men­tary film­ing in Lon­don prior to a per­for­mance at the Ham­mer­smith Odeon.” “This print of Amy Wine­house is signed by her, so it’s spe­cial to me. She seemed par­tic­u­larly happy that night.” “Although I’m prob­a­bly best known for work­ing with the punk bands and Oa­sis, I started with Pink Floyd.” “My Beatles cush­ion. I was a huge Beatles fan. My first pho­to­graph was on Abbey Road: Paul McCart­ney, two school­friends and an el­bow. When I was 14.” “Chrissie Hynde is one of my muses and a dear friend. We spent a lot of time in the early 1990s shoot­ing pic­tures for a va­ri­ety of projects: an an­i­mal right’s book, al­bum cover, press pic­tures and a cal­en­dar that we have not (yet!) pub­lished. The idea was Chrissie wear­ing 12 dif­fer­ent hats made by David Shilling. This one was in­spired by Dali.” “I won first prize in 1992 when I en­tered The Observer’s (Jane Bown) Por­trait award with this pic­ture of Char­lie Watts. It was taken on a Has­sel­blad in his ho­tel room. To my de­light, Char­lie wrote a letter to con­grat­u­late me. He signed it ‘C.R. Watts (drum­mer of the Rolling Stones)‘. How mod­est is that?!”

“The first cam­era bag I ever had. I’ve wanted to throw it out sev­eral times but I just can’t bear to.” “I have two light­boxes: a big one in the stu­dio which I had when I was a stu­dent, which was made for my stu­dent ex­hi­bi­tion of 1974. It’s an an­tique. This lit­tle one just fits per­fectly in this space in the of­fice.” “The en­larger leaks light from the side, which doesn’t mat­ter for some ex­po­sures, but the dark­room has white walls, so when there’s a long ex­po­sure it can fog the pa­per slightly. So I have a silk scarf from my mum to stop it.” “My beau­ti­ful De Vere cold cath­ode en­larger, I bought it across the road from col­lege, sec­ond hand, when I was a stu­dent, so it’s a very old. I re­ally love print­ing.”

Fur­manovsky’s 1988 award for ‘Woman of the Year for Mu­sic and Re­lated In­dus­tries’. “Leonard Co­hen in the late ‘70s. This was a typ­i­cal mu­sic press ses­sion: prob­a­bly for Sounds. The jour­nal­ist and ‘snap­per’, me, at a posh ho­tel. The light­ing was poor, just a ta­ble lamp and some dull winter win­dow light. My shoot prob­a­bly lasted 30 sec­onds.”

“I have used a lot of these, ac­tu­ally. There’s a Pen­tax S1A here some­where, which was the first cam­era I had, which was my dad’s. The Mickey Mouse one has sweets in it. My grand­daugh­ter loves it.” “I love this flash, it’s fan­tas­tic, isn’t it? I have a col­lec­tion of odd cam­eras; peo­ple started giv­ing them to me, and I’ve had to tell them to stop be­cause I’ve nowhere to put them all.”

“I don’t get to use the Has­sel­blad so much these days, which is a bit of a shame. This one was given to me by Linda McCart­ney. I was never able to af­ford a new one, but some­time in the early 90s, Linda was very good friends with Chrissie Hynde, and she said, ‘Chrissie, would you like a Has­sel­blad?’ And she replied, ‘Well, my friend Jill would prob­a­bly like one’! So she gave it to me and it be­came my cher­ished pos­ses­sion.”

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