A Career Shaped By The Photograph

Starting Out

For more than three decades the biggest names in show business have been photographed by Derek Ridgers, but it all began by chance, one night in Finsbury Park, north London.

With a Miranda SLR slung over his shoulder, Ridgers walked into the Rainbow Theatre on the night of 13 January 1973.

He had taken the borrowed camera home to practice as he was working for an advertising agency at the time that wanted him to learn.

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In what became known as the Rainbow Concert, the luminaries Pete Townshend, Ron Wood, Steve Winwood, along with Eric Clapton walked on stage, a night that would change the budding camera man’s life.

Once the concert began, Ridgers made a move, away from his poor view where he was sitting at the back with his girlfriend.

“Rather unchivalrously I got up, left Jo-Anne in her seat, ran to the front, hopped over the low wall into the photo pit and pretended to be a photographer,” says Ridgers.

“In those days, there weren’t many photographers at gigs and hardly any security.

“But I was putting myself in between the band and several thousand people.

“All of which could then see me almost as much as they could see the band.

“I must admit, I felt quite exposed.

“But at the same time, the excitement of being only a few feet away from my musical heroes was quite compelling.”

Down to this experience Ridgers recalls that he became hooked, despite only doing what he could with merely one lens and one roll of film.

The Amateur – the True Lover of Pursuit

In what he calls “the sort of photographic cliches that many amateurs start with,” he began shooting still of performers as well as other subjects” at various gigs from then on.

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From those that he was photographing on stage he started to turn the lens on the audience in much the same way not long after. He found that he had a new look to document with the emergence of punk in 1976.

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“Almost overnight, the audience became more photogenic than the bands,” he says.

Gaining Recognition and Going Professional.

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His portraits came to be hanging on the walls of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London a mere two years later.

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Many leading magazines, including The Face, The New Musical Express (NME) were the type of publications that Ridgers began to shoot for after gaining enough success in order to leave the advertising world at the beginning of the 1980s.

If you’re in or near east London of 4-7 October you can see a Ridgers’ exhibition, curated by Faye Dowling at Artblock, the Old Truman Brewery.

All Photographs Copyright Derek Ridgers.

Words by Elijah (Content Marketer).