Shot on location at the Gothic studio of Sarum Chase, Hampstead and the derelict ruins of Swarkestone in Derbyshire, Joseph’s photographs feature The Rolling Stones in an ethereal state. Elaborately staged portraits are contrasted with atmospheric shots of the band outside the barren manor house, surrounded by cattle and playing cricket in the overgrown grass. Joseph’s vibrant, eccentric style is clearly displayed in this renowned series with whimsical costumes and live animals used as props throughout the shoot.
Joseph was born in South Africa in 1941 and grew up amid Anti- Apartheid activity. After being gifted his first camera by his grandmother at the age of 6 he went on to shoot compelling scenes across the country before following a career in journalism and fashion. Proudly unconventional, Joseph remarked that he aimed to take photographs that were decisive and edgy, choosing the extraordinary over the ordinary.
At the heart of the exhibition is the medieval feast featured on the inside cover of The Stones’ 1968 album, ‘Beggars Banquet’. Characterised by its rich colours and beautiful lighting, this theatrical scene challenges traditional photography with a hazy, surreal style informed by Joseph’s admiration of Dutch renaissance artists Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel.
The photographs in this series take their place in the turbulent history of one of the most celebrated and influential albums of all time. The album signalled a return to The Stones’ roots in blues, country and Rock ‘n’ Roll and also marked the band’s last recording before Brian Jones’ untimely death. Despite a conflict between the band and producers whilst choosing the album’s cover, Joseph’s shot was ultimately selected to feature inside and remains one of the most admired photographs of The Stones.
Proud Chelsea will provide a rare opportunity to see the results of this photoshoot together in one unique exhibition, exploring Michael Joseph’s approach to photography as a fine art and offering an unconventional view of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band in their prime.