Steve Gullick started taking band photographs for a friend’s fanzine in the late 1980s and was swiftly spotted and recruited by the then weekly music paper Sounds.
Throughout the 1990’s he worked with the cream of musical talent, notably Nirvana and the US scene that became known as grunge. From the middle of the decade he worked extensively with British electronic punk band The Prodigy. This coincided with photographing the likes of Bjork, Neil Young, Beck and Jeff Buckley whilst working his way through competing music weeklies Melody Maker and NME as well as contributing to a host of other international monthly music magazines.
2002 saw Gullick create Careless Talk Cost Lives, an underground publication conceived to run for twelve issues only. The image led magazine achieved it’s goal, in the process making cover stars of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Bright Eyes for the first time, as well as the more established Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Bonnie “˜Prince’ Billy. Gullick continues to follow his passion for music and photography, more recently you’ll have seen his work adorn releases by Richard Hawley, Foals and Beady Eye.
icould met up with Steve to ask him a few questions about how he got to where he is now and attempt to unlock the secret of his music photography success:
When did you realise you wanted to work in music photography?
Aged 14 – I loved music and started getting into photography, there was a darkroom in our art class, I used to spend every lunch hour in there – loved the idea of working with bands and maybe one day I’d be lucky enough to have a photo on a record sleeve.
What are the high and low points of getting to where you are now?
Up until the digital revolution it was pretty much exclusively high points, during the 1990’s I was on the road, in the darkroom or hanging out with my wife and kids; really good days. I have very fond memories of the time I spent with Nirvana, Jesus Lizard & Screaming Trees amongst others during the first half of that decade and from 1995 I was with The Prodigy for a few years, which was an incredible experience.
What job do you think you would have done if you hadn’t have become a photographer?
I worked as a lithographic printer in Coventry, then got the same job in London before breaking into professional photography, the question should probably be; what job are you going to do next?….
What advice would you give to young people trying to succeed as a photographer, especially music photography?
You have to be absolutely single minded and dedicated to perfecting your craft, there are loads of talented people that want to do the same thing, you have to be better than them; if you don’t do this, you’re probably wasting your time and should concentrate on photography as a hobby.
What skills do you think you need in order to be a successful music photographer?
Hardworking, able to communicate with all kinds of creative and business people, have a vast knowledge of your craft, be prepared to put yourself out at the drop of a hat.
When I started in this business nobody was interested in what qualifications you had, they just wanted examples of your skills as a practitioner, in those days there were three weekly music magazines with readerships in the hundreds of thousands, the music industry was thriving. Now the music business is in crisis and publication wise, there’s only the NME, it’s current circulation is tiny when compared to the 1990’s.
I have no formal qualifications, just 21 years practical experience as a freelance photographer/ darkroom printer, I’ve applied for photographic lecturing work at points in the past but have had the applications ignored, I’d strongly recommend any young person trying to get into photography these days engage themselves in a formal photographic education.
What personal influences helped you to get to where you are now?
My parents were incredibly supportive, they let me set a darkroom up in my bedroom and bought me my first camera, they always worked very hard to support our family and that instilled work ethic has aided my progress. Without my art teacher at school, I may have never been subjected to a darkroom, that’s where the magic really took a hold of me.
“From Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds through to Jack White via Kurt Cobain, Steve Gullick has photographed all the leading and most interesting figures of the last two decades of alternative music” The Quietus
“THE PHOTOGRAPHY of Steve Gullick is unique. Graceful and forbidding in equal measure, it captures the essence of the maverick rockers to whom he’s drawn while resorting to none of the garish tricks and gimmicks that have become the staples of music photography. He’s in a tradition that goes back through Pennie Smith to Jim Marshall. Only he’s more doomy and punk” Mojo