THE WORLD IS YOURS
Lawrence WatsonSat 28 Apr 2007 - Wed 30 May 2007
The first solo exhibition in London by Lawrence Watson presented a selected retrospective of 30 iconic photographs, spanning twenty five years of the best in the music industry. It was the first major exhibition to be held between Trolley Gallery and the new Maverik Showrooms on Redchurch Street, East London.
The first solo exhibition in London by Lawrence Watson presented a selected retrospective of 30 iconic photographs, spanning twenty five years of the best in the music industry. It was the first major exhibition to be held between Trolley Gallery and the new Maverik Showrooms on Redchurch Street, East London.

The work spans the years 1980 until the present day, and includes images of David Bowie, Run DMC, Michael Jordan, Oasis, Tom Waits, Janet Jackson, Ian Brown, Paul Weller and Snoop Doggy Dogg that have become the definitive portraits of these artists.



Watson was 17 when he hustled a freelance job at the NME. His first commission was a portrait of a group called Southern Death Cult, who later became The Cult, and whose singer, Ian Astbury, replaced Jim Morrison when The Doors reformed.



He was soon shooting covers on a regular basis. His first was not a musician, but a comedian-turned-film star - Eddie Murphy was in town to promote Beverly Hills Cop when Lawrence persuaded him to leave his hotel suite and travel to Bow Street police station, where he posed him beside a pair of London bobbies.



For NME he shot, amongst others, The Smiths, David Bowie, KLF, BB King, INXS, Madness and Neneh Cherry. He shot Lenny Kravitz in Bar Italia, Michael Jordan in his San Antonio dressing room, Snoop Doggy Dogg in a California prison cell, and Bobby Womack in what looks like Berwick Street fruit-and-veg market. He has worked closely with Paul Weller on various album covers and as a tour photographer.More recently Lawrence worked with the artist Peter Blake to photograph the Stop the Clocks album cover for Oasis. Lawrence had shot the cover for their album Don't Believe the Truth, and accompanied Noel Gallagher on his warm-up gig in Moscow for the Teenager Cancer Trust concerts.



As a video director Watson has worked with Cast, Echo and the Bunnymen, One Dove, Ian Brown, Travis and, of course, Paul Weller, for whom he also made the acclaimed 'As Is Now' DVD documentary. In 2006 he shot stills of Michael Cain for a new production of the film Sleuth, co-starring Jude Law, directed by Kenneth Brannagh and adapted by Harold Pinter, who Watson also photographed.



Watson's memorable portrait of Tom Waits, shown in the exhibition, was taken during a five-minute shoot in a run-down bar in South Central Los Angeles in 1987. Taken through the diner's window in the second that Waits pulled a pair of dice from his pocket, it captures something magical about Waits, his world and music.



Lawrence Watson is the quiet man of British photography. He puts people at ease, works fast, aiming for energy and rawness over artifice and pretension. As this retrospective exhibition shows, it works every time. Not bad for a guy who left school at 16, having blagged a single O level. "Everybody left with an O level in art", he says. "The teacher let us all cheat and we traced pictures from a projector on to our paper." The rest, as the saying goes, is history.



Watson was born in Hammersmith, West London, in 1963, and grew up on the rough and tumble streets of West London. He attended William York School, whose most famous ex-pupil is John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, and where "the teachers used to chuck stuff at us all the time."



Having served his apprenticeship at Brian Marshall Photographers for a year and a half, Lawrence began following his own path. "Basically, I'd go out, shoot everything I could, and wander around cemeteries a lot". A friend, David Townshend, had a small darkroom in his father's basement, and the hours spent there were the 'fuse' that lit up Lawrence's interest on photography as an actual career. Another friend, and fellow photographer, Chris Clunn, sold him his first camera, a Yashica, which Lawrence remembers, "had the serial number scratched out". Having landed a trainee post with London Weekend Television, Watson moonlighted at NME for the next few years, often shooting indie bands like The Wedding Present and the Pastels in his lunch hour, or after work. "Most of the time", he says, "I could barely afford the flash".



I first met Lawrence in the NME office in the early eighties when hip-hop was just breaking into the mainstream as a new and dynamic cultural force. We criss-crossed the Atlantic more than a few times, hanging out in the office of Def Jam and Sleeping Bad, meeting Mantronix, Run Dmc, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rankin and the rest. It was a golden time, and Lawrence shot some of the greats of the emerging rap era when they were young and hungry, and just about to take the world by storm.



On his first trip to America for NME, he shot the legendary Run DMC in Chicago. "They owe me a pair of jeans", he says. "The battery acid ate into my levis." He photographed them again at the height of their fame in New York, Philadelphia and London. Since then, he has become one of the world's most in-demand portrait photographers, with a portfolio that speaks for itself.



Along the way, too, Lawrence began shooting videos and documentaries, travelling the world with Pet Shop Boys, and, just after leaving the NME in the late eighties, documenting a tour of Australia and Japan by the boy-band, Bros. "It was a different world", he says. "They didn't do any drugs, or even smoke. They did buy me a lighter on my birthday, though."



Lawrence initially worked alongside his old friend, Chris Clunn, co-directing videos for the Sandals and Middle Earth, before heading out on this own when Clunnie returned to photography full-time. Lawrence's first solo directed video was for the Basshead's single, 'Is Anybody Out There.' It cost five grand and peaked at No.2 in the pop charts.



The portrait is still my favourite image of Tom Waits. It was taken through the diner's dusty window. In the split second that Waits pulled a pair of dice from his pocket and flashed them for an instant, it captures something magical about Waits, his world and his music, his elusive spirit. It may even have captured a piece of his soul.
Artworks will be added shortly