Featuring photographs of Biggie Smalls, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish and others, Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards celebrates and uplifts photographers’ contribution to the music industry
“The reason I wanted to do this is because I think photography in music is very undervalued, especially now,” says Rankin, speaking at the award ceremony of Abbey Road’s inaugural Music Photography Awards on 14 May. “When it was about album covers, and there was a lot of money in music, [music photography] was a much more respected part of the industry. However, having judged this award, what I’ve really realised is that the photographers are more passionate than they ever were back when I was doing it. They are so passionate and so excited and it comes through in all of the entries.”
Rankin was one member of the judging panel for the world’s first photography award dedicated to the music industry: Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards. He selected the winners alongside an impressive jury composed of photographers Jill Furmanovsky and Dana Scruggs; musicians Moses Sumney and Shygirl; Rolling Stone picture editor Sacha Lecca, and Abbey Road’s managing director Isabel Garvey.
Among the winning images are Jack McKain’s intimate photograph of rapper Pink Siifu playing bass guitar, which won in the ‘Studio’ category, and Megan Doherty’s image of her friends roaming the rain-soaked streets of Derry in the ‘Championing Scenes’ category. Elsewhere, Chris Suspect scooped the ‘Zeitgeist’ award for his charged image of DC metal legends Darkest Hour, and Greg Noire’s dynamic shot of American singer KennyHoopla won in the ‘Artist at Work’ category.
The ‘Undiscovered Photographer’ award went to Joe Puxley, whose portrait of Arlo Parks was highlighted as one of the jurors’ favourite images across all categories. “Feeling a seminal artist’s normality and brilliance at once is really inspiring,” says Puxley. “It’s an unreal privilege to crystallise and share that with photography.”
A special category dedicated to an icon in photography was presented to New-York based photographer Eric Johnson. Best known for documenting US music culture during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Johnson’s photos of Biggie Smalls, Nas, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and the late Aaliyah defined an era of US music photography.
But, beyond its winners, the shortlist also featured countless other images worth mentioning. Yana Yatsuk’s sensitive portrait of popstar Billie Eilish, for instance, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s contemplative shot of musician Perfume Genius. Above all, the award is a welcome celebration of the important contribution that photographers continue to make in the music industry.
Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.