My Breakthrough Moment: Dean Chalkley

“Photography can be a thing unto itself. It’s more than documentation.” Dean Chalkley discusses how his 2005 portrait of Noel Gallagher marked a personal turning point in terms of culture and photography

This picture of Noel Gallagher signifies a period of time that felt like a cultural reset. Artists like Dizzee Rascal were part of a new phase, while Oasis had crossed over from a generation before. I took it on 14 November 2005, as a commission for NME magazine, and it was part of the first major exhibition I’d organised, Now Stand Tall – which brought photography together with live music.

I’ve always tried to follow my heart with my work. When I was studying, I started doing stuff for Dazed and Confused, and photographing musicians like George Clinton and Ice T. I also ended up working quite a bit with the art editor of the magazine and shooting Chris Ofili, Douglas Gordon, Sam Taylor-Wood, and the Wilson Twins – all of whom came to be known as the YBAs at the time.

I was also interested in tattooing and piercing and things that, at the time, were quite out there and on the periphery of popular culture. I found myself drawn to that kind of thing. I started to do a lot of work with Mixmag – going out to Ibiza and places like that, because that’s where it was seen to be at. But around 2000 there was a significant scene change in music.