Unless a dedicated museum is set up British musical history may be lost.
According to one of The UK’s most celebrated photographers unless a dedicated museum is set up to preserve large swathes of classic British rock photography it could lose them all to private collectors.
Without a stable space photographers may be forced to sell their archives outside of the UK to buyers in countries such as China and the US contrary to the huge public interest in rock exhibition says Jill Furmanovsky who has worked with bands including Pink Floyd, Joy Division, and even Oasis at their peak.
“There needs to be a permanent home for British rock photography,” says Furmanovsky. “At the moment collections are sold, or put to auction – in which case they can go anywhere: to a private collector or an institution that might just sit on them.”
On the importance of preserving British musical history Furmanovsky says there is “a general cultural blindness” with inadequate attempts by UK institutions, such as the rock museums British Music Experience at the 02 which closed in 2014 before moving to Liverpool in 2015, to preserve the historical artefacts of UK rock photography.
“I think rock fans deserve a place to put this stuff which gives it a bit of gravitas and reflects its place in cultural history,” she says. “We’re the envy of the world and we’ve got nowhere to put this stuff.”
Struggling to find a new home are previous successes that have now gone into storage such as Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliott’s Return of the Rudeboy exhibition at Somerset House in 2014 or the retrospective work of NME photographer Chalkie Davies at Cardiff Museum in 2015. “We initiate these exhibitions, they go up and then they go into storage,” says Furmanovsky, who at 65 wants to secure her archive’s future and that of her peers before retiring.
“I don’t know how much longer I can carry it on. I haven’t got anywhere to pass this on to. It’s the same with quite a lot of major photographers and where will this stuff end up? Probably America or China.”
Before becoming Oasis’ photographer of choice in the mid-90s Furmanovsky made her name working for magazines such as the NME, Sounds, and Melody Maker. Explaining her approach to rock photography she says: “I’d sit in the shadows, take pictures and give the prints to Melody Maker. If they got used, I got £30, which financed the next load of film and processing.”
For a New Generation.
Furmanovsky believes that a new generation of fans should have the opportunity to access classic British rock photography from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, so there is a duty to preserve it, like when Furmanovsky’s work was included in the V&A’s hugely successful Pink Floyd and David Bowie exhibitions. “You need to collect this information now or it gets lost forever – it’s like corporate amnesia,” she says.
“You need to make sure that it’s available as an historical document for the next generation. It’s an era that inspires people and will do in the future.”
Recently on display at the Central Manchester Library in England up until the end of February earlier this year was the Rock Archive’s most recent exhibition, There is a Light That Never Goes Out, and the photographer is currently crowdfunding in order to revive it.
All photographs copyright Jill Furmanovsky.
Words by Elijah (Content Marketer) via The Guardian.