In December 2018, we have travelled to Manchester to see a photography exhibition entitled “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. It chronicled city`s musical heritage via the lenses of local photographers. We have to admit – it was an extraordinary experience to see all the iconic shots beautifully laid out at the Manchester Central Library. As expected thousands of locals and tourists alike flocked to see it. We promised ourselves that next time another such exhibition is held in Manchester, we`d be back to attend its opening.
And we are! We cannot be more excited to tell you that on February 22nd two leading female photographers – Karen McBride and Shari Denson will join forces to create one night only photography exposition (in a secret location for now) to showcase their work. If you are a music obsessive like us – you don’t need an introduction to the magnificent images produced by both ladies. Everyone else just needs to know this – Karen and Shari revolutionised pages of music magazines and bands portfolios. They set the bar incredibly high but also inspired many starting photographers.
We are lucky – not only a weekend of incredible art and music awaits us in Manchester – we also were able to interview both iconic photographers ahead of the exhibition for this blog.
This chapter is dedicated to Shari Denson, you can read our interview with Karen McBride by clicking on the link below:
So without further delay. Dear readers – please meet one of the most influential music photographers known to English music scene.
You worked with the likes of White Stripes, Interpol and Elbow while your images have been featured on album covers (Ian Brown), in print (Independent, NME, Guardian, Louder Than War), in retail (Amazon) and on television (The Mercury Prize, Later with Jools Holland). Please introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria.
Shari Denson: Hello, I’m Shari
It is said that you became a photographer after attending many concerts around Manchester – including legendary venues such as Manchester Apollo. Looking back, was there ever a definitive moment when you realized that you wanted to capture moments on film, or was it rather a longer process that lead you to photography?
Shari Denson: It was long, long process. I’ve been a bar maid, a stage manager, a clapper/loader and focus puller on films amongst other things before I finally started being serious about photography. I wanted to make films and was doing a film studies degree. When I had my first child half way through the degree I switched to still photography so I could be in control of my time. You have to go by everyone else’s schedule when working on a film. So even though I’d always taken photos at gigs from being young, it was never with a view to making anything beautiful or striking, it was just for memories. I mean, my photos still serve as memories now but hopefully with an extra layer or two. So I was 30 when I got my first SLR camera and fell in love with photography. Fairly soon after that, I needed to complete an assignment for university and I decided to do it on live music photography. And that was where it began for me.
Music was always around you – your brother as dedicated gig goer took you to see The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen when you were just ten years old, while your father was a musician. This may sound a bit like a question they ask on Desert Island Discs – but if you were to name five records that shaped you the most – what would you choose?
Shari Denson: I’d chose the following:
More Songs about Buildings and Food – Talking Heads
For the Roses – Joni Mitchell
Desire – Bob Dylan
The Spangle Maker 12” which also included Pearly-Dewdrops Drops – Cocteau Twins
Porcupine – Echo and the Bunnymen
Every photographer could write a book about funny, slightly horrifying or straightforwardly weird situations they encounter behind the scenes of the glamour photo-shoots. Please, share one such a story with our readers.
Shari Denson: That time I took a Sheffield band, Trap 2 on Saddleworth Moor in the freezing cold winter..forgetting it was a bit nippy, then asked them to hang about near some trees in the woods on the way back home, whilst I lit them with fireworks. All I could see was smoke, and all I could hear was coughing and spluttering, whilst I assured them everything was fine. The shots were awful but we had a scream. Great band, and really lovely lads who put with all sorts from me (laughs)
Your best known photo – that of Elbow from the promo session to their album “The Seldom Seen Kid” has been recreated as a mosaic by artist Mark Kennedy, and is now exhibited on outside wall of the iconic Affleck’s store. We imagine you must be feeling very proud every time you are on Tib Street.
Shari Denson: Yes, I mean it would have been nice to know about it 10 years ago when Mark decided he wanted to use the image… I only found out about a year ago. I’m sure my parents, who were still around at the time, would have been very proud indeed.
Besides photography, you also direct videos and worked with Blaney, The Winachi Tribe, The Northstand, The Tapestry, The Backhanders, and The New Southern Electrikk among others. Was it hard to transition from photography to video? Do you have any artists that you would like to work with?
Shari Denson: Well, as I said before, I’ve always been interested in the moving image, so the transition was exciting. I had the pleasure of learning how to use Final Cut editing software during my time at Badkamra, a video production company so it seemed natural thing to make music videos. I wouldn’t name any band in particular, I just like to work with creative and collaborative, like-minded people.
In 2007 you had your first exhibition entitled “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member” at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. Other exhibition soon followed such as solo exposition at the Kro2 Oxford Road in Manchester in 2013, Night & Day Café in 2014 or Suffragette City in 2018. How do you prepare yourself before each event?
Shari Denson: Mostly by having a major meltdown. Apart from Night & Day, which was made much easier by Jan, who helped me immensely.
Your next exposition is a one night only “A Very Insecure Exhibition” that will happen on 22 February 2019 in yet undisclosed location in Manchester. It will be a joint event with another well known photographer Karen McBride. Can you tell us what can we expect?
Shari Denson: (laughs) I can only tell you this…you can expect something different….heartfelt and beautiful whilst being bold and powerful.
There is also a book prepared for the occasion. It looks amazing from the promotional shot we have seen so far. How long did the entire event took planning wise. And can the book be purchased online by those who cannot make it to the opening?
Shari Denson: Yes, it can. At https://ukgiclee.co.uk/avie/ We’re very pleased with it.
Manchester is famous for many things, among them Vimto, football and (of course) the music scene. The National Football Museum has been opened in the city centre since 2011 but somehow The Music Museum still hasn’t happened yet. Do you think it is high time that Manchester got a dedicated place to properly celebrate its photographic and musical heritage?
Shari Denson: I think that sounds like a marvelous idea!
You must have been asked many times about your favourite shot you have taken. We want to know the opposite: what picture (if given the chance) would you permanently removed from your catalogue?
Shari Denson: None. Each and every one has it’s place. They serve as my memories. I get emotionally attached to them and I don’t deal well with loss, so I wouldn’t get rid of any.
A Very Insecure Exhibition
Now revealed as Projekts MCR (SkatePark at Mancunian Way)
97 London Rd, Manchester M1 2PG
20:00 pm – 23:30 pm
Tickets cost £6 -£8 and can be purchased from the link below:
You can also get all the newest updates from the event page:
You can follow Shari on social media and we encourage you to do it, she is a phenomenal artist!
For those who enjoy a bit of additional reading, we have found a bunch of articles about Shari and her work.
What else can we tell you? Come back next week as we will publish our interview with Karen McBride. And prepare yourself for updates, images and maybe even polaroids from the opening. Its gonna be a proper party in the North.
All the best for now,