One of the music industry’s best loved photographers, Lawrence Watson, has turned his hand to photographing portraits of Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, and Trevor Nelson once again for a new exhibition, but this time alongside recovered addicts.
‘In Darkness, Light’ celebrates 50 years of addiction charity the Spitalfields Crypt Trust by showing the true face of addiction and the many people it effects; from sufferers, to friends and family of addicts and those who support the work the charity does.
Shot on black and white film, the tightly framed headshots on display at The Printspace Gallery in East London features a number of other celebrities and artists who lent their time including Ken Loach, Jo Wood, Levi Roots and Jonathan Pryce.
“I said I don’t want to do it as the down and outs and the homeless people, just very simple portraits. Nothing about clothes, nothing about location, just about the face,” explained Watson of the project. “I just wanted to bring out honest portraits of the human face.”
He was inspired by the 60s style as a prime era of black and white portrait photography, a key motif in his career which has seen him shoot Grace Jones, Run DMC, Morrissey and more for the likes of NME. “It was more documentary in that period of portraiture with Terence Donavan, Brian Duffy. Simple, classic square format shot on film.”
Watson was drawn to the project as someone who has seen addiction issues in the music industry and also because his first photography studio was in Shoreditch, directly opposite the Spitalfields Crypt Trust’s headquarters.
Attracting a large number of celebrities and a top name like Lawrence to photograph them has been quite a coup for the local charity who operate a number of long term recovery programmes for addicts.
“Our community have been so amazed to be photographed by Lawrence. They’re up there now with Jonathan Pryce and Noel Gallagher. It’s been a great boost to them,” said Sonia Rai, of the Spitalfields Crypt Trust.
“These are guys who are coming out the other side, they’re happy. It’s showing hope,” Rai said.
Michele Kirsch went to Spitalfields Crypt Trust after becoming addicted to prescription drugs for anxiety and since going through the programme has begun to rebuild her life and her relationship with her family.
“I’m up there next to Paul Weller but I’m only there because I came off of drugs, not because I’ve done something amazing,” she says. “You can see the title of the show, ‘In Darkness, Light’, it really does that. You can see all of it there. It’s a strange thing to be in a gallery for but it shows that we’re all different. It’s not an affliction that effects a certain type.”
This is something that Watson firmly believes in too and has donated his time and skills to communicate. “We’re all human beings at the end of the day at that’s the way I photograph stuff. So it doesn’t matter about Ken Loach being next to someone from the programme, they’re just faces… we’re all one step away from falling off this knife edge we’re all living on.”
‘In Lightness, Dark’ sponsored by Shearman & Sterling runs until 27 June at The Printspace Gallery, 74 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DL.
The celebrities included in the exhibition have donated memorabilia which will be auctioned to raise funds for the Spitalfields Crypt Trust.