Lana Del Ray to Amy Winehouse: Bryan Adams is a globally famous rock star by night, by day celebrated portrait photographer to the stars
He has notched up sales of 100 million records, but in the past decade the rock star has added another string to his bow
Bryan Adams is best known as the Canadian rocker responsible for such hits as Run To You, Summer Of ’69 and the record-breaking (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which topped the British charts for 16 consecutive weeks in 1991 and sold more than eight million copies worldwide.
In a career spanning more than 30 years he has notched up sales of 100 million records, played huge arenas across the globe and been nominated for no fewer than 15 Grammy awards.
In the past decade Adams has added another string to his bow, as a celebrated portrait photographer of the stars.
His interest in photography began in the Sixties when he began using his English-born parents’ Kodak Instamatic cameras and a small Bell & Howell Super 8 film camera.
In the Seventies he recalls nabbing an Agfa camera sent to his mother by an uncle who worked for a British company that produced black-and-white film and printing paper.
‘The first photos I made were on that camera,’ he says, ‘with the subjects ranging from the Beach Boys in concert, parking lot walls, my girlfriend in the bath, my mum, my piano and random things that surrounded me.’
In the late Seventies, as his music career began to take off, Adams bought a Polaroid SX-70 and then a Canon AE-1, on which he captured life as a touring musician.
Then came the chance encounter that would change his life.
‘While visiting Japan in the late Eighties I stumbled on a shop that sold me a Fifties Rolleiflex camera with a beautiful Zeiss 2.8 lens.
‘I’m sure I paid double what it was worth, but sometimes you fall in love and love makes you do crazy things.’
Many of the photographs here were taken with this very camera.
As his passion and skills behind the lens developed, Adams went on to try out a wide range of new cameras – a Leica M6, a Mamiya RZ and even a large-format, wooden Deardorff 10×8 – before turning the kitchen in his London home into a studio where, for the past 12 years, he has created many of the honest, engaging and gimmick-free portraits that have brought him the sort of acclaim he has become used to as a performer.
His book Exposed contains images of subjects as varied as the Queen, with whom he was granted six minutes (enough time for HM to comment on his ancient-looking Deardorff), Hollywood hellraiser Mickey Rourke and the tragic Amy Winehouse, who he spent time with in Mustique in 2007.
Sometime after the shoot, Winehouse called Adams to ask if he would take pictures for an advertising campaign, telling him, ‘You were there when I was wrong.’
What feelings are stirred by looking at those wonderful pictures now?
‘She was talented beyond belief, with such a beautiful voice – sadly it wasn’t meant to be in the end.’
As a recording artist himself, Adams’ portraits of rock stars are of particular interest.
He says the camera-shy Morrissey, whom he shot in Rome in 2007, was good to work with but says that the rarity factor of a subject does not automatically imbue an image with power.
‘You could take a picture of the most photographed person in the world, and if it was the right shot your photo would be just as interesting as one of someone you never see.’
The stunning Lana Del Rey, photographed in London last year, was a natural collaborator, says 53-year-old Adams, something he looks for with all his subjects.
‘I think Lana is so gorgeous. I’d have to have the lens cap on to mess up a photo of her.
‘Honestly, every frame was good.’
And as for the striking image of Sting, shot at his home in London, Adams says that as soon as he saw the beard he decided it was right to ‘get that shirt off’
By Dan Davies
PUBLISHED: 21:00 GMT, 6 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:00 GMT, 6 April 2013