Richard Kelly, a photographer from Burnage has photographed an amazing selection of much-loved artists and musicians from across the world.
He is now the official photographer of the Arctic Monkeys and has been highlighting the best in British musical talent for over 25 years.
He was the first to take a media shot of Florence and the Machine before the band were nominated for accolades such as the Mercury Music Prize and Grammys, as well as priding himself on scouting local Mancunian talent.
Richard Kelly: A Time and Place will showcase never before seen images of some of music’s most talked about talents including the late Amy Winehouse, John Cooper Clarke, Florence and The Machine as well as up-and-coming talent from around Manchester including Antony Szmierek and Akemi Fox.
And best of all, you can go and see his work at the Kimpton Hotel.
With his keen eye for detail and ability to capture the essence of his subjects, Richard Kelly has become a revered figure in the world of photography.
The exhibition space at the Kimpton Hotel has been transformed into a gallery of Kelly’s artistry.
We sat down with the man to talk about his career and work.
Starting as a messenger for the Manchester Evening News, he found inspiration in the freedom and creativity of photographers.
Speaking to I Love Manchester, Richard said: “I got into photography quite late because after leaving school, I worked as a messenger delivering notes around the building at the MEN.
“This was before email, so I had the chance to see the photographers who would come in.
“They didn’t have to wear suits and they had interesting stories about photographing bands like Oasis.
“I thought it was a great job because it changed every day, and that appealed to me. When I was 16, I went to evening college to study photography.
“After leaving that job, I worked at a developing studio where I processed film in the lab. Then I worked for a printer, printing photographs and doing contact sheets for photography, including the sheets for some Oasis singles”
“It was a natural progression to shoot bands and fashion.”
Intrigued by their ability to capture fleeting moments and the ever-changing music scene, Kelly decided to explore photography further.
Through his experience in labs, and studios, and assisting renowned photographers, he honed his skills and developed a distinct style that beautifully blends documentary and fine art photography.
While his passion for photography extends to various genres, it is his connection to music that truly shines through his work.
Richard continued: “While I was doing other photography work, I always enjoyed photographing people and had a strong interest in portraiture.
“My degree was in documentary photography. On weekends, alongside my studies, I would go out and photograph raves, which eventually led to working for magazines like Mixmag.
“It was a natural progression, and I started photographing for Vice Magazine and Dazed & Confused.
“Then I had the opportunity to photograph the Arctic Monkeys when I was asked to go to Sheffield and photograph a new band called the Arctic Monkeys for Dazed & Confused. I ended up working with them for quite a long time. From there, I continued doing music photography.”
Through chance encounters and serendipitous events, Kelly found himself collaborating with emerging artists such as the Arctic Monkeys, becoming their official photographer.
His ability to capture their authentic moments and the evolution of their image solidified his position as a respected music photographer.
He said: “Back in the day, gigs paid very little. I remember getting paid only 50 pounds per job, plus expenses. Since I liked the band, I decided to shoot them on film.
“I jokingly told them, “This job is costing me 58 pounds, so I’m losing eight pounds on you.” We immediately hit it off.
“They were pleased with the photographs. When their first single, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” came out, they gained a lot of popularity.
“But what they enjoyed was when I spent a day with them, just to see what their normal routine was like. I think they appreciated keeping things low-key and relaxed.
“I spent a few hours documenting their usual activities: rehearsing, hanging out, just goofing around.
“They liked the candid photos. I didn’t come in and start telling them what to do or how to pose. I think they appreciated that. When the record label asked for official press shots, they specifically requested me, and I ended up doing them for the next three albums.”
“Personally, it was a brilliant experience for me. I’m not a huge fan of their music, but I love seeing how they’ve evolved. Do people want bands to keep releasing the same type of album repeatedly? I find that quite boring. I appreciate that they are always changing and doing things differently. Alex looks fantastic right now, with his lounge singer blazer style. I also liked his Gean Vincent look. Artists should evolve and explore new directions, in my opinion.
“I believe that to be a great photographer, you need to be an observer. You can’t be part of the circus; you need to truly observe it. I’ve never been interested in actively participating in what’s happening. I just want to observe, capture an amazing photograph, and that’s it for me.”
“When it comes to my approach, I don’t see myself as someone who directs people.
“Instead, I focus on creating an environment where they can feel relaxed and be themselves. This is a crucial part of the process.
“Before starting a photo shoot, I often have a chat with the person I’m photographing to understand their desires and intentions. I also share my ideas, and together we find a middle ground.
“When I capture a great shot and they respond positively to it, you can see a change in their demeanour.
“They begin to trust that I won’t make them look bad. I always emphasize that if they don’t like a photo, we can delete it. It’s important for them to know that their satisfaction matters.
“Once they feel comfortable and at ease, that’s when I can capture their true essence. So, creating a comfortable environment where people can open up and be themselves is the essence of my process.”
Discussing the ever-changing music landscape, Kelly emphasises the importance of artistic evolution.
He admires musicians who continually push boundaries and experiment with their sound. In his photography, he strives to reflect this evolution, capturing artists’ unique personalities and the essence of their creative journeys.
By maintaining an observer’s perspective rather than becoming entangled in the whirlwind of the music industry, Kelly achieves an authenticity that resonates with both the artists and his audience.
Born in Burnage, Manchester, Kelly’s return to the city after 12 years in London reignited his love and appreciation for Manchester’s vibrant creative community.
The city’s friendly atmosphere and the ease of collaboration drew him back.
Manchester, a breeding ground for talent, provided a fertile ground for Kelly to explore his artistic endeavours. With connections to local artists like Antony Szmierek and Akimi Fox, Kelly effortlessly captured the essence of Manchester’s artistic soul, resulting in a collection of photographs that reflect the city’s dynamism and spirit.
The Kimpton Hotel serves as the perfect backdrop for this exclusive event, immersing guests in a world of captivating visuals and artistic brilliance.
For both photography enthusiasts and music lovers alike, Richard Kelly’s exhibition is an opportunity to witness the fusion of art and music that defines the spirit of Manchester.
Richard said: “One more thing I’d like to mention is that during the meeting at the hotel, I was initially hesitant to exhibit all my old work.
“Like most photographers, I’m always looking ahead. However, the hotel expressed immense enthusiasm about showcasing new talent from Manchester.
“The Kimpton Hotel has been supportive in that aspect. They truly appreciate the local talent.”
The exhibition will open on Thursday 1 June from 7pm and will be free to view for the public on the walls of The Refuge.
The exhibition is not to be missed for music lovers from or visiting Manchester.
The opening coincides with Arctic Monkeys preparing to take on Old Trafford’s cricket ground, which is fitting as the exhibit will capture rare shots of the band.
Commenting on the exhibition, Johan Scheepers, General Manager of Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, added: “We’re proud to be hosting Richard Kelly’s work which will incorporate some iconic music moments, and also putting the focus on new emerging talent which is so important for Manchester’s culture scene to grow.
“We feel it’s a great fit as we at Kimpton love all things music and always strive to support creative talents locally.”
Richard Kelly: A Time and Place will be a free-to-view exhibition on the walls at The Refuge from 7pm on Thursday 1 June 2023 until 31 August 2023.