British recording studio Abbey Road Studios holds its groundbreaking music photography awards this weekend, beaming the spotlight on a category that, according to it, deserves homage.
The May 14 ceremony marks the first time an institution celebrates the art of music photography, and it will pay tribute to both start-up and prominent photographers, ranging from live shots to intimate portraits.
All shortlisted images – which were taken last year – involve snaps of singers Billie Eilish and Arlo Parks, artist David Mrakpor, and dancers at live shows.
“Music Photography Awards started as a nugget of idea from one of our team because we see even from our archives that we have at Abbey Road how important photography is in telling the story of what’s going on in a studio or behind the music,” said Managing Director at Abbey Road Studios, Isabel Garvey, in an interview with Reuters.
“And as we went digging, we realized it was a category that really wasn’t celebrated. So, we decided … with our connections with musicians, with creatives, with the whole industry that actually we were in quite a unique position to mount an award ceremony like this and give these photographers the platform to celebrate all of their work.”
The awards show highlights open and invited categories. Open categories include portrait photography, editorial photography, and artist-at-work.
Eric Johnson, a New Yorker photographer who has shot images of Biggie Smalls, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill, will be given the icon award for his “contribution to the art of music photography.”
Live music photography, studio photography, undiscovered photographer of the year, and championing scenes and zeitgeist, called the “images that define music in 2021,” are among the awards in the open categories.
“We obviously know there are a lot of talented music photographers out there, but we weren’t quite prepared for the onslaught of applications,” stated Garvey. “I think we had over 3,000 applicants amongst the open categories.”
Pro photographers like Jill Furmanovsky are part of the panel of judges.
“I was impressed there was so much material from a year when we were in COVID, so they couldn’t have been nearly as many situations to shoot music photography as in previous years,” Furmanovsky stated.
“And yet people were doing it: small gigs or gigs with masks on or people recording in their rooms or their houses and so on. It was quite moving really at times to see that and also historic actually, because it was a moment in time.”