The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see rare images of twentieth century icons. Selleslags documents seminal musicians such as The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles, and he was recording images of these bands before they became ground breaking musicians. Selleslags says: ‘There were only two photographers during the first pop-concerts in the sixties, an Englishman and myself’. The other photographer was Dezo Hoffman, who went on to become the Beatles first official photographer.
Selleslags’ iconic photographs of musicians, actors and celebrities capture moments of
spontaneity; there is an intimacy to the images that offers a fascinating glimpse into
the closed world of his subjects. Selleslags rarely uses flash, instead making use of
natural light, something which makes his photographs so atmospheric and distinctive.
His portraits are intended to make the viewer work a little harder; band logos are hidden in the distance, faces are half covered by dry ice or blurred by action. The photographer’s natural charm and sense of humour comes across in his works. Despite having photographed some of the biggest stars of the twentieth century, Selleslags is not a household name, nor is he fazed by fame. A recent TV interview shows him laughing as he remembers a time when Jimi Hendrix asked him to come to one of his shows. ‘I couldn’t... I had another thing to do! I said ‘no, I can’t’... Saying no to Jimi Hendrix!’
Born in Antwerp in 1938, Selleslags documented more than half a century of national and international news events on camera, such as Cannes and Le Mans, and worked for various newspapers and magazines, including Humo, the Belgian equivalent of the NME. He was the only photographer to join The Beatles filming The Magical Mystery Tour in 1967, testament to the trust felt toward him by the ‘Fab Four’.
Selleslags claims that becoming a photographer was ‘purely by accident.’ His father was a photographer and in order to leave school, which he disliked, he became his father’s assistant. As well as prints, Selleslags created photographic documentaries and reports. He maintains 'It was never my intention to make art. I just wanted to document events. Roland Barthes was right: photography is not art but magic. It is about freezing time. The event is more important than the photographer. Although an image, when it is a good one, will reveal something about the photographer as well.’ His photographs, mostly black and white, have become important historical documents.
The Archive at 88-Gallery will be the only opportunity to see Selleslags’ work outside of Belgium, where the FoMu (Museum of Photography) in Antwerp has recently received Selleslag’s archives on permanent loan.
This is the first photography exhibition 88-Gallery has ever held and came about through gallery director, Erik Müllendorff’s friendship and great respect for Herman Selleslags. Müllendorff says ‘Herman’s photos in Humo (the Belgian equivalent of NME) were my introduction to rock music when I was fifteen, so these images form an integral part of my youth. He added to the dialogue and narrative surrounding so many of the icons of the twentieth century. Its important that British collectors should have the opportunity to see his work and I’m delighted to be the first gallery to bring it to the UK.’
The collection of previously unseen images at 88-Gallery will vary in size, and each print will be an edition of eight and signed by the artist, who will be present for the opening night of the exhibition on 8th October.