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Smiths photographer is still one of the lads
Published 06/01/17

IT’S one of the most famous photographs in pop history.

The black and white shot of indie giants The Smiths standing outside Salford Lads’ Club was taken by Caversham-based photographer Stephen Wright for use with the band’s landmark 1986 album The Queen Is Dead.

It ended up making the cover of virtually every music paper on the planet, became the basis of innumerable T-shirt designs and turned the club itself into a place of pilgrimage for fans of the group — eventually culminating in the opening of a “Smiths Room” in 2004.

Three years later the club itself, came third in a nationwide hunt to find the most iconic buildings in the country.

Club worker and community artist Leslie Holmes said at the time: “Salford Lads’ Club was undoubtedly brought to the world’s attention by Stephen Wright’s famous picture of The Smiths outside the main entrance.”

Today the image is part of the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Manchester Art Gallery and the Salford Art Gallery.

As a thank-you for his role in raising its profile — something thought to have greatly assisted its fundraising efforts over the years — the club made Stephen an honorary member in perpetuity.

Tomorrow (Saturday), music fans will have the chance to find out more about the photographer’s work when he makes a personal appearance at the In The Groove record shop in Reading Road, Henley, between 11.30am and 1pm.

The event marks the launch of a rolling exhibition of Stephen’s work called “The Smiths and friends”.

He said: “It’s called that because the moment you put music on by an artist you enjoy, it’s like a friend popping in.”

Having begun his career as a live music photographer, Stephen went on to photograph some of the biggest names in the industry, including Madonna, Prince, Miles Davis, Nina Simone and James Brown.

With more than 20 images of iconic musicians lining the walls, the 56-year-old calls it a “showcase” of his career to date.

“These photographs have been in various exhibitions over the years and much enjoyed,” he said. “I rather liked the idea of people browsing through records and CDs — as I do — with these artists looking down on them. It’s all very low-key and I hope people enjoy them.

“That photo of The Smiths was taken on a murky and cold Salford day in 1985. They were at the peak of their success and I’m so proud that the image has become recognisable worldwide.”

Just over a year on from the release of The Queen Is Dead in June 1986, The Smiths went their separate ways.

As a fan of the band, Stephen said he had seen Morrissey live a couple of times in recent years, while he and a mutual friend had met up with drummer Mike Joyce in Manchester.

While prints are not available to buy in store, limited-edition signed photographs of all the above-named artists and more can be purchased from Stephen’s website.

For more information, visit www.smithsphotos.com and www.inthegrooverecords.co.uk

PUBLISHED 06/01/17

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