Major retrospective of rock photography in Australia at NSW State Library

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The State Library of NSW is staging the first major retrospective of premier Australian rock photographer Tony Mott, featuring 300 images from his extraordinary archive.

Over 30 amazing years the British-born chef established himself as the rock photographer of choice by the biggest names in the business. Chrissy Amphlett of Sydney rock band Divinyls helped launch Tony’s career when he sold his first photo of her in the early 1980s.

It’s only fitting then that the exhibition, opening at the State Library of NSW on Saturday 17 October, is named What a Life! after a Divinyls album.

“Without Chrissy I wouldn’t have had a career,” said Tony. “I sort of stalked her with my camera to learn the art of rock photography. What a pleasure and pain it was.”

Tony’s photographs have appeared in more than 700 music magazines and street press journals including Rolling Stone, Juice, Drum Media, RAM and Juke. He has provided photography for more than 450 singles, EPs and albums.

His portfolio features international music icons such as the Rolling Stones, Björk and Nirvana, as well as local acts (INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil) and Australia’s independent band scene.

“I love photography and I love music. I combined the two and made a career out of it,” said the self-taught photographer who had to re-shoot Gun’s n Roses in 1988 after forgetting to put film in the camera!

Tony admits his biggest strength was “establishing a comfort zone between himself and the artist”, and “working quickly as musicians are notoriously impatient.”

Among his many career highlights was being asked to shoot Mick Jagger’s solo tour of Australia in 1988, and he subsequently shot four Rolling Stones tours – twice as the official photographer.

Tony’s favourite magazine cover (Rolling Stone, December 1997) features his candid portrait of Michael Hutchence, taken in 1988 while the INXS front man was showing off his new Harley.

His portrait of the eccentric Björk winking quirkily at the camera is his most published image, and even graces the cover of the Islandic artist’s autobiography.

The exhibition collectively tells the story rock n’ roll life in Australia over the last 30 years, including the enormous changes to the live music scene from the 1990s and the impact of digital on the art of rock photography.

Stretching across five galleries, the exhibition includes music posters (eg. Big Day Out) and pamphlets from the Library’s collection, video footage and interactive elements where visitors have the opportunity to create their own #RockMoments.

Tony is a film set photographer these days but still shoots band covers. The exhibition features a ‘behind the scenes’ film on Tony’s recent shoot with Kasey Chambers at the State Library.

His new book, Alphabet A – Z: Rock ‘n’ Roll Photography by Tony Mott: Some Rock, Some Roll, Some Other Things, will be launched as part of the exhibition.

What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott is a free exhibition at the State Library of NSW, from 17 October 2015 to 7 February 2016.

Find out more about What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott here.

Tony Mott is available for interviews.
PDF iconDownload full media release