The New York based Welsh photographer Chalkie Davies has been awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ at this year’s NME Music Photography Awards with Nikon. Chalkie’s images will need no introduction to readers of the British music press in the seventies and eighties. He has photographed icons including David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, Thin Lizzy, Blondie, Elvis Costello and The Clash. Chalkie left his hometown of Barry to pursue his career as a photographer in London in the 1970s. He was staff photographer at NME between 1975-1979.
Davies wasn’t always a portrait photographer. After spending four years training to become an aircraft engineer at British Airways, he decided that joining the rock and roll circus was a better way to earn a living than fixing broken autopilots on jumbo jets. So in 1973 he gave up life at the airport and became a photographer. In 1980 he helped start The Face with his old NME editor Nick Logan, shooting the early covers. In 1981 Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Publishing imprint published ‘Pointed Portraits’, a book of Chalkie’s work for the Face and NME. Now out of print,and a collectors item in its own right.
Speaking to the NME about his Outstanding Contribution Award, Davies says that it’s important to recognise great music photography: “Anyone can take photos now, with phones and Instagram,” he says. “It’s vital to acknowledge that photography remains important, because music photography is about documenting what’s happening.”
As for advice to aspiring photographers, he has these words. “Back in the day film was so expensive – £12 a roll – that you were really careful about what shots you took. I see so many people now taking load of photos; you don’t need to take so many to get a good shot. So take fewer photos and have fun.”
Chalkie’s recent exhibition at the Snap Gallery reenforced his status as a seminal force in music photography. The sell out show in May was a preview for his retrospective Museum show which takes place at the National Museum of Wales in 2015.
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