Iain Cameron's Diary
"Click here to access the Fruitful Album" - Click here to visit Music for the Highveld Project
2004-02-29 - 10:45 a.m.
Some unique shots under the Highveld link above.
Another photographer who has worked for some years at the New Musical Express is Derek Ridgers. Ridgers trained as a graphic artist and went into advertising, where he worked as an Art Director for ten years. One of his clients was a camera company and he picked up the product and gave it a try.
When he parted company with the ad agency he decided to take up photography. So he took an evening class and also started to meet up with some local photographers in a small group where we brought our current work along to discuss and benefit from each other's comments. So I saw much of his work over his first few years as a photographer, although I suspect he was wise enough to take my suggestions with a suitable degree in scepticism.
We also organised a number of group shows for which he designed posters
and showed his work.
Among his first real published work was a series taken on a second-hand Nikkormat, which he bought as a cheap camera and started taking it to punk performances at the Hammersmith Palais, where he pogo'd up and down with the best of them while photographing.
To get the kind of results he wanted, Ridgers attached a flash to the camera using a homemade bracket, a bent wire coat hanger. It did the job and the pictures were published. Before long his pictures taken here and in some of London's more extreme clubs were attracting attention, and he had an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the leading 'cutting edge' arts venue in the UK.
Ridgers still works for the NME, although his work has at various times appeared in many other places, including The Face and the Telegraph magazine. As well as pop photography, he has specialised in photographing various youth subcultures, including work on fetish clubs and body piercing. This has also achieved wide publication in a rather eclectic range of magazines and books. He has also completed a project on homeless people living on the streets and photographed the drug scene.
He has been working for 25 years on the club scene in London, concentrating, as he says, on "certain clubs and some excessive looking people. Some of the people I'm interested in, I will have photographed and got to know over a 10 year period." Ridgers hopes publish a book of this work, 'DARK CARNIVAL - Portraits from the endless night, 1977-2001', shortly.
References on the web to his work are largely scattered around the fan sites of the many groups for which he has shot record covers. Unfortunately where these include pictures the reproduction quality is poor. Among the various artists and groups of whom he has taken some of the definitive pictures are Stone Roses, Cocteau Twins, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis Costello, Keith Richards and Sinead O'Connor.
Ridgers's work has shown an increasing subtlety of techniques, and like Corbijn he moved from 35mm to medium format, though preferring a 6x7 format. His approach to the subjects perhaps has a sharper edge and more often reflects the photographer's ideas - as one might expect from a former art director. Of course many of his subjects have had little idea about the kind of photograph they wanted, and many of the ideas they do come up with are essentially non-visual or incapable of being translated into visual form, and Ridgers' pictures have crystallised an image for a number of nascent UK groups.