Jobs: My life as a rock photographer

PUBLISHED: 15:05 02 June 2016 | UPDATED: 07:52 03 June 2016

Nick Elliott, rock photographer, who works near Holt.

Nick Elliott, rock photographer, who works near Holt.


Rock photographer, Nick Elliott, whose post production studio is based near Holt, explains how he got started in his career and what it’s like to work with legendary performers such as Metallica and Iron Maiden.

The Hairy Bikers 2015. Photo: Nick ElliottThe Hairy Bikers 2015. Photo: Nick Elliott

Name: Nick Elliott

Age: Let’s just say: I remember bits of the 60s!

Job Title and Employer: Self-employed rock photographer.

Describe your job in a nutshell: I’m an artist – one that creates powerful, iconic, photographic images. I work predominantly in classic rock, heavy rock, some blues and shoot a lot of CD and album cover artwork as well as promotional material and rockumentaries which involve working on a personal level with bands and artists on tour.

Justin Hawkins performing with The Darkness Dec 2013 at UEA, Norwich. Photo: Nick ElliottJustin Hawkins performing with The Darkness Dec 2013 at UEA, Norwich. Photo: Nick Elliott

I am essentially known for my black & white, it reflects a retro style that replicates the music that I still listen to today. I have worked with legendary performers like Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Robert Plant and consider myself to be a Conceptual Photographer so when artists and bands come to me with, say, a new album and tour, I put together a visual concept for the whole product and we build around that. I create a complete branding around that brief.

What was your first job?

Once I left school, I joined the local press and then I worked in editorial photography for major consumer magazines, some of the biggest in the UK at the time.

I then moved into creative advertising and went on to shoot above and below the line campaigns such as British Telecom, Jaguar, Walt Disney, and the Liberal Democrats ‘92 election campaign, all for some of the biggest agencies in the world like Saatchi & Saatchi, Young & Rubican, and Publicis.

How did you get your job? Creative Advertising had given me a very successful career and during this period I won a lot of international awards but many of the campaigns I was working on were starting to cramp my creativity. I had come to a point in my life where I wanted to move the line, I am doing this all the time, moving the boundaries of what I am satisfied with creatively, and I wanted to specialise so the natural trip for me was into the music business.

What’s the most enjoyable thing about being a photographer?

It’s not just about taking photographs; it’s always about the image first and foremost, no matter what the subject matter is.

It’s about creating a one-off piece of art, making a mark, changing things. It’s about passion, it’s an emotional trip, creating an image that, when you look at it, takes you to a place that is very personal to the viewer.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

The biggest challenge for me is to move something that I visualise in my head and create it in a physical sense as a finished piece of photographic art. I’m actually not that interested in photography, I’m interested in art. Photography is purely the medium I use to capture the art that I create.

You might not know this about my job:

My images are also in high demand as fine art limited edition prints and I’ve exhibited in over a dozen art galleries in the UK, Europe and USA.

I was approached by a specialist music book publisher and released my debut book, TEN-A Decade In Images, in 2011. I’ve since published two other books, 50Folk and Three Weeks One Summer and am currently working on a series of rock books.

Last year, I also produced a world-first: Size Matters, featuring 13 images measuring a massive eight meters high to create what is believed to be the largest outside art exhibition ever.

You take a lot of photos, do you have a favourite? No, I don’t have a favourite, it’s the next one! I haven’t shot it yet.

I do have a favourite subject though – I’m a people man, whatever they may be doing, they don’t have to be a musician. Everyone has a beauty; the art is in finding it.

What’s the most exciting thing about your industry?

Fulfilling the dreams and ambitions that I had from being young. I set my stall out to work with the people who had been my heroes and had influenced my life in such a massive way and made me the person I am today. I have ticked many of those boxes but still have plenty to get through.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My interest in photography began through a desperate urge to create. My major influences were the old classic black and white films, album artwork, and the work of David Bailey and Patrick Lichfield. A mixture of all of this really kicked it off.

Hopefully the biggest highlight is yet to come. In my life I have always looked forward and not back. I think the biggest inspiration is for me to be recognised for my work and what I do as a rock photographer.

What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a similar career?

Digital has brought an abundance of everyone doing the same old stuff, but what that does is allow the cream to rise to the top. There will never be a substitute for class, style, professionalism, and sophistication, and that, in my honest opinion, is what photographers who are serious about their art need to do. Learn their craft.

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