Thursday, 7 December 2017

Joy Division on The Streets of Stockport: Photographer Paul Slattery on his iconic 1979 photo session and Strawberry Studios Exhibition

Joy Division on the streets of Stockport photographed by Paul Slattery
In July 1979 I was working for Sounds magazine as a freelance photographer and I drove up to Strawberry Studios in Stockport with writer Dave McCullough to photograph Joy Division for an article in the mag. Dave had been listening to this demo tape very loudly in the Sounds office above Covent Garden tube station but I can’t say that I or anyone else in the office liked it at the time. Dave though had a sixth sense when it came to music, he was an absolute legend. In the evening we went to the Funhouse at The Mayflower to see Joy Division play along with The Distractions, The Fall and Ludus at a gig entitled "Stuff The Superstars". Tickets were £1.50 and I thought Joy Division were a load better live than on the demo tape though. You can still read Dave's original interview from Sounds magazine first published back in August 1979 here.

Strawberry Studios Stockport photographed by Paul Slattery
Roll on 37 years. In the late summer of 2016 Peter Wadsworth from the Stockport Museum got in touch with me about the Joy Division photo session I did on the streets of Stockport as he wanted some of the images for the upcoming exhibition "I Am In Love" about Strawberry Recording Studios. After the exhibition finishes my photographs will be on permanent display at the museum. This is a really excellent exhibition and has been hugely successful since its opening in January this year and if you still haven't been then you are lucky as it’s open until 29th January 2018. There are some great artefacts in the exhibition from Graham Gouldman and Martin Hannett from the studio made famous by 10cc and Joy Division among others. This was a golden age of British rock music and I was utterly privileged to be there. 

Photo by Tracey Holloway
Last month I was invited up to Stockport to give a talk about the Joy Division photo session at the Seven Miles Out Art Cafe. I was truly humbled by everyone letting me rattle on for about an hour or so, and to a packed crowd so I’m told. As a photographer you may hope that some of the photographs you take come out OK, but I’m truly touched at the love that this crowd showed for these Joy Division images.

Paul Slattery in front of his iconic Joy Division photographs - Photo by Peter Wadsworth
Before the talk I went to visit Hopes Carr where I took some of the photographs - little has changed except some idiot at the council decided to cover what was a beautiful cobbled street with tarmac. I was gutted. Save your history Stockport! I hadn’t been in the centre of Stockport before and I must say that it has a very attractive little town centre with many period buildings and a covered market. It also has the Robinson’s Brewery where you can book a tour. It looks like a town trying to reinvent itself for the future and there is no doubt that the preserved building fabric of the town centre, the beautiful market, the really superb and eclectic Stockport Museum and the Seven Miles Out Art Cafe are all contributing to its revival.

Strawberry Studios memorabilia on display - Photo by Paul Slattery
Many thanks are due to both Peter Wadsworth who arranged the talk and to Rosemary and John Barrett who run this excellent Arts centre in Stockport. Thanks for the coffee Rosemary!
- Paul Slattery December 2017

Lee McFadden (musician with Cult Figures, Alternative TV etc.) interviewed Paul for the Joy Division Central web-site back in 2014 and he mentions the Stockport photo session and his first experience of seeing the band perform live.

Paul: It was one of those photoshoots where you felt the band really didn’t want to be choreographed. You just took them down to a place – “look over here”. I think the image they were – or Hooky was – trying to project – wasn’t a playful image. It reflected the music, which I thought at the time was melancholy. They’re not love songs. It was a different kind of vibe to what I was used to. I’d been taking pictures of punk, power-pop bands who project this kind of pop song vibe, so you get three guys and they’re all smiling. Joy Division was a different vibe. I just got them on the corner, saw how they interracted and took a few frames. Obviously in retrospect I wish I had taken about ten rolls of film (laughs).
Lee: You saw them at the Mayflower that night. People often remark on the marked difference between their live and studio sound. You’d heard “Unknown Pleasures” in the office – how did you react after seeing them live for the first time?

Paul: I thought they were amazing. I felt they really came alive. Hooky was there with his low-slung bass and I thought – “Well he’s learnt something from Paul Simonon anyway!” (laughs).

Lee: He’s admitted the same to me!

Paul: They were great. Ian Curtis had so much charisma. Live they were tremendous. There were some great bands on there – Ludus, The Fall, The Distractions were a really great pop band from Manchester, and Joy Division. I never knew whether Joy Division’s band of music would surpass the Distractions. I’d seen the Distractions a few times and I like that kind of pop music. But for me, the gig was very powerful and Ian Curtis was amazing live.

Photographer Paul Slattery - Photo by Peter Wadsworth
The full original interview can be found at the Joy Division Central web-site/resource, extract used by permission. Thanks to Paul Slattery, Peter Wadsworth, Lee McFadden & Tracey Holloway.

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