Monday, 20 September 2021

Casual photo became The Smiths most famous image ever

YOU may not be familiar with the name Stephen Wright, but if you have taken an interest in pop music

YOU may not be familiar with the name Stephen Wright, but if you have taken an interest in pop music over the last 30 years you will almost certainly be familiar with his work.

Wright is a photographer based in Caversham and at present he mainly works on weddings and corporate events. But in his youth, back in the Eighties, he used to take pictures of the bands he loved playing live.

He got lucky one day snapping one of his favourite groups, The Smiths — and ended up with a commission to shoot photos for the cover of their album, The Queen Is Dead.

The picture, which shows Morrissey and his bandmates in front of the Salford Lads Club in Manchester, has become the most famous image of them ever.

This weekend, there is the chance to view pictures of some of the great artists Wright has shot at a music-and-photography event in Checkendon.

He said: “I do feel proud of the Smiths picture and it’s nice that people enjoy the photos. I started out attending gigs at the Hacienda in Manchester. At the time Manchester was the main source of new music in the UK outside of London. Each week I would do shoots of live bands, then Red Star the pictures to London where they would get used in publications. I was very fortunate to be able to see and photograph some great bands like The Smiths.”

Wright, who lives with his wife of 19 years and his 13-year-old son, said at the beginning he only had enough money for one reel of film at a time, and he would develop photographs in his room, keeping his chemicals in old drinks bottles.

Since his humble origins he has built up a portfolio of work that showcases dozens of world-famous musicians, like Madonna and Prince.

He said: “I’ve been lucky to have shot some amazing artists — Miles Davis three times, Nina Simone at the Royal Albert Hall, Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Stone Roses, who came round for tea, actually.

“I would have loved to have shot Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra. They’re the three that got away for me.”

His famous Smiths image has been accepted as part of the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Manchester Art Gallery and the Salford Art Gallery.

It has also been used in publications such as NME and Mojo. In the past, Wright has given prints to Cancer Research UK which have sold at charity auctions for up to £950.

This weekend Wright is teaming up with Ripcaster, a retailer of high-quality music equipment, to present his work at their showroom in Checkendon.

Members of the public can enter for free to view the images, and listen to a playlist of music from various artists that Wright has shot over the years, including New Order, Stevie Wonder and U2. There will also be signed, limited edition prints available to buy.

lThe photo exhibition and music event will be held at Ripcaster, The Forge, Main Street, Checkendon tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, April 27 and 28, from 2pm to 6pm. Entry is free. For more information about Stephen Wright’s work visit

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