Paul Weller, The Jam, Air Studios, London, 1982©
The story behind this image
This image was at the famous Air Studios, Oxford Street, London. In 1969 George Martin left EMI to establish an independent recording complex in the heart of Central London. It became one of the most successful studio operations in the world. I knew it pretty well and had shot bands there before. As it happens, I did a session with Paul McCartney there. At the time, I was working for “Sounds” music paper. The Jam was recording the Gift. When I arrived there, John Weller (Pauls’s dad and manager) informed me that I would have to be quick as the band were behind schedule and Paul was already late. No surprise there. I would always arrive early to shoots to scope out locations and prep everything.
That day I decided to check out the staircase. As I opened the door, a burst of blazing sunlight suddenly filled the stairs and projected the window framing on the opposite wall. I had to look no further for a location. It was perfect. Only one problem Paul had not arrived yet, and there was no guarantee the sun would shine for me on demand. I ran back upstairs hoping Paul had turned up, no sign of Paul. Rick and Bruce were already there. I went back to the staircase to prep for the shot. It’s actually a tough shot to get exposure wise and even harder to print. The difference between the highlights and the shadows are extreme. Much easier now with digital but with a pre-digital Nikon F2, not so easy! You also had no idea if you got it right until you got your film back from the lab. I opened the door and low and behold the sun was gone. I was pissed and resigned to the fact that if there was no sun, there was no sun. I would just do the shoot without it. Not as good, but that’s sod’s law.
In the end, Paul turned up. I grabbed him and the band and dashed back to the stairways. My stars were aligned for the next 30 mins the sun blazed. I managed to get all my shots of Paul and the band, colour and black and white. This shot is one of my favourite shots out of all of my portraits, and it makes a beautiful rich black and white print with a lot of tonal depth.
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