Two new photographic exhibitions capture stars of stage and screen in different lights, writes Jon Perks.
There are two Mick Jaggers in town.
No, we’re not talking tribute bands or namesakes who drive a bus or work in a call centre.
There is the groomed, jacketed Jagger posing with a microphone backstage at Top of the Pops in the mid 60s, and then the far more natural, relaxed Rolling Stone, his hair shaggy, grin wide enough to show the diamond in his tooth, taken sometime in the mid 70s.
Each is at the heart of an exhibition on show in the West Midlands in the next month.
The former at My Generation: Glory Years of British Rock, a collection of pictures by Harry Goodwin, who was resident photographer at Top of the Pops from 1964 to 1973.
The latter was taken by Carinthia West, who as well as being one of Mick’s ex girlfriends was also a successful model, actress and journalist who was rarely without her trusted Canon EF.
Her candid, natural, slightly voyeuristic shots of the cool crowd of celebs she mixed with can now be enjoyed at St Paul's Gallery in Hanging Out With Carinthia West.
As well as Jagger and Ronnie Wood, the collection of rare photographs captures the likes of Anjelica Huston, Eric Idle and King Hussein of Jordan – but unlike Goodwin’s posed shots, these are the subjects caught in a relaxed, personal moment, at play, with family and friends.
There is singer Neil Young smiling from the wheel of one of his vintage cars and in the yard of his ranch with son Zeke; a grinning Carly Simon, the New York skyline (Twin Towers and all) perfectly reflected in her sunglasses – a happy accident; Robin Williams and Johnnie Shand-Kydd (stepbrother of Princess Diana) at a cluttered kitchen table.
The name of the exhibition says it all; these are people simply hanging out, with Carinthia in the wings, observing unobtrusively.
In the odd case there’s no-one famous in the frame; one series of black and white shots records the famous Battersea Power Station ‘pig’ shoot in December 1976 for Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover.
Another picture, “the bums one” as Carinthia refers to it, was taken at one of Rod Stewart’s regular mid 70s Sunday lunchtime football matches in LA, and focuses on two shapely female rears and drummer Paul Nicholls from little-known rock band Widowmaker. Rod can just about be spotted as a speck in the background.
“I wasn’t any different from a lot of people,” says Carinthia, who still cuts an elegant and glamorous figure.
“It’s just probably that I was trusted and that’s something that’s an underrated thing and incredibly important; I did shoot professionally, the odd job for magazines, but none of the pictures you’ll see – with one or two exceptions – were shot from any professional point of view.
“They are of a moment. I love that, just a moment in time; it captures a joy.
“Marie Helvin said everybody’s so happy in my pictures and I love that, it’s such a sweet thing to say; yes, the world is full of awful and sad things, but I like to see people being happy and enjoying their lives.”
Carinthia has been both in front of and behind the camera lens (“and to the left and to the right!” she laughs), but it’s clear which of her many jobs and roles she’s enjoyed the most.
“I haven’t got much vanity and I think you’ve got to be so confident; when I was acting I loved it because it was easy to do it, but I love observing, and in many ways observing is a gift you’re given, because most people live their lives subjectively perhaps.
“I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I feel privileged to be quietly in the background, it’s very underrated – everybody wants to be there in front and ‘I’m so smart, I’m so cool’ but I’ve had my moments doing that.
“I look at some of those photographs and I think ‘gosh, it’s almost like it was another person taking it’, because my life’s so different now.”
While Carinthia is still taking pictures with her new Canon G11, she thinks it’s something she should now “leave to the young”.
Instead, she and assistant Hannah are concentrating on the mammoth task of trawling though the countless boxes of negatives – rating, scanning and cataloguing this unique, priceless archive of honest and frank photographs.
“They’re hugely untouched – this exhibition is the tip of the iceberg,“ says the photographer.
“It’s a labour of love – my greatest joy would not be so much selling the pictures – obviously it’s very nice – but it’s really to have a record and history of time that’s thoroughly organised; how I’d want it to be is just to be able to sit down with Hannah and do a box and half [of negatives] every day.
“It’s such fun to take a picture and remember where you were, and I think a lot of people of my generation have those memories and those experiences, but not all of them have got the pictures, and if they have they’re probably quite blurry snaps... and perhaps now and then I’ve got a good shot.”
As this exhibition shows, there are more than few.
* Hanging Out With Carinthia West runs at St Paul’s Gallery, Northwood Street from November 12 to January 28. www.stpaulsgallery.com
In contrast to Carinthia West’s ‘off duty’ hanging out images, the current photographic exhibition at The Public in West Bromwich finds its subjects in more conventional portrait poses.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few treats – The Who high kicking in their dressing room and Hendrix playing the guitar with his teeth are two of the unusual delights among the 23 iconic pictures which make up My Generation: Glory Years of British Rock.
All were taken by Harry Goodwin, a Mancunian who, between 1964 and 1973, was resident snapper at the Top of the Pops studio.
As well as the Who’s Who of music captured in the shots – ‘Little’ Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elton John – there is Goodwin’s own fascinating tale – his photographic talents were first put to use in RAF reconnaissance in the Second World War.
The exhibition is part of The Public’s Art of Noise programme – a series of shows all tied together with the common thread of music.
Ian Danby, Head of Arts Programmes at The Public, says: “On one floor we’ve commissioned other artists to make pieces in response to the idea that the exhibition is all about sound and how art uses sound – this part fits perfectly with that.
“Downstairs we’ve got some pictures by Steve Gerrard. As part of the Home of Metal exhibition, he’s taken pictures of fans going to various metal gigs, so there’s a nice contrast with the other things going on here. It’s all going to be an eclectic set of exhibitions set around artists involved in music.
“The Black Country is renowned for its bands and music, so we thought we should do something that responds broadly to music and this seemed perfect.”
* My Generation: Glory Years of British Rock runs at The Public in West Bromwich from October 21 until January 15. www.thepublic.com