Backstage Sessions: reflections and advice from three photographic greats

In The Backstage Sessions, a new film series curated by Rankin for WeTransfer, three greats of music photography – Gered Mankowitz, Kevin Cummins and David Montgomery – offer insights on their process plus what it is like to work with Bowie, Björk and The Stones et al

The three short documentaries in the Backstage Sessions give an insight on what it was like to shoot musicians during the 60s, 70s and 80s, some of the most significant eras in rock, and before the rise of digital photography. The images that Mankowitz, Cummins and Montgomery created helped define the careers of artists such as The Rolling Stones, Bowie and Joy Division, as well as shaping the iconography of rock music itself.

“I saw Gered’s work when I was 15 or 16,” says Rankin, “that amazing picture on the cover of The Jam’s This Is The Modern World was so important to me. David Montgomery’s picture of The Rolling Stones – of Mick Jagger holding Sticky Fingers upside down – is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve got it in my living room. And then everything Kevin did with Morrissey, and Ian Curtis – you couldn’t not know Kevin’s work.”

Despite this, perhaps because they were largely working in the pre-digital era, none of these photographers are exactly household names. This is in part why Rankin chose to highlight them in this series, which is the latest in a series of projects he has done in collaboration with WeTransfer. “Some photographers are really good at staying on people’s radars, and some aren’t necessarily as good,” he says. “That’s not me being critical – they’re just a little bit more on the periphery of the consciousness of photography.”

Watch the films below:

Kevin Cummins:

Top: David Bowie performs at the Rollarena in Leeds during the Ziggy Stardust / Aladdin Sane tour 29th June 1973. Photo by Kevin Cummins/Getty Images; Above: Björk in August 1993, by Kevin Cummins

Gered Mankowitz:

Photograph for Revenge by the Eurythmics, shot by Gered Mankowitz

David Montgomery:

Keith Richards in the 1980s, by David Montgomery

Films curated by Rankin, produced by creative agency The Full Service

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