Era to era with Beezer

The Bristolian photographer Beezer has been documenting the intricacies of street, music and youth culture and more since the 1980s, capturing the likes of Pulp, Mark Stewart, Ari Up and Paul Weller. Now, he’s looking back through his archives and highlighting his most well-known and poignant images for his forthcoming book, 'Until Now'.

“I started working on Until Now just over a year ago, and now it’s almost our publishing date. The reason I chose that for the title is quite self-explanatory – I wanted to present my work from the beginning, in 1982, where it all started back in Bristol to the present day. The last volume will contain an image I take on the day it goes to the printers, showing the continuing journey of my photography.”

Black Uhuru, Glastonbury, 1986. “Had my two minutes of private shooting with Black Uhuru just before they went on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, featuring female roots member Puma, RIP.”
Pablo Gad “Who Is the Terrorist” record cover; 12in single cover, shot at Broadwater Farm, London, 1987. “Shot for his Rhythm King Records cover with a fake M16.”
Jah Revelation Sound System, Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1984. “This was one of only two shots I took of them playing for the young and old, with Trellick Tower in the background.”

“The whole sound system scene back then was phenomenal. We were going out every night to parties and music events, and the whole social scene was about weed, clothes and music. Everyone like The Wild Bunch – Grantley [Marshall] and Miles [Johnson], and Nellee [Hooper] as well, who I knew from back in the punk days in Barton Hill – was just growing up and exploring, and I was documenting it.”

Ultimate Wild Bunch, The Dug Out, Bristol, 1984. “One of my most iconic pics, showing The Wild Bunch in full effect at their Wednesday-night sessions.”

“I first started photography in 1982, after I borrowed a friend’s camera and went on an audio-visual course at Brunel Tech. But it wasn’t until I was given a Nikon FE on my 18th that things really changed for me. I started documenting what was going on around me in the music scene and The Wild Bunch era. That led me to getting a job as Venue magazine’s music photographer and contributing to NME and Black Echoes, capturing the essence of the sound system and DJ scene. I’ve gone through turbulence in my life like everyone else, but the images and the documenting of events always stay with me.”

Gil Scott-Heron, Glastonbury, 1986. “Taken during the most rain-soaked Glastonbury, but the event was amazing!”

“I am constantly digging through my archives because these images are like an extension of my body. I have about 180,000 images just on my phone, let alone in my archives of negatives and files on computers. It’s quite emotional looking back as I am seeing many people who have now passed away captured in their prime, doing what they were great at doing. But I do find it really positive to reminisce on those days and how we all lived, and how things have changed, like the underground becoming mainstream.”

Decks ’n’ Tennent’s at Froggy’s van, Glastonbury, 1986.
Pulp, Thekla showboat, Bristol, 1985. “Jarvis getting right down with toilet paper streams used as effective stage decor.”
The Day the Nun Died, Jamaica Street, Bristol, 1985. “Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja was creating a front cover on the side wall of the building that housed Venue magazine.”

“It’s not just images that I look back fondly on. It’s an event or a person that the image captures. Images of Ari Up and of Mark Stewart, in particular, would be counted as those. When Ari had her kids, she had just returned from Jamaica and she was deciding what direction to go with her music. We would try lots of different outfits and ideas, and it was usually done on the fly, but it was a great time. These people were my heroes, and it was quite surreal that they had become great friends of mine.”

Wall Posse B-Girl, St Pauls Carnival, Bristol, 1986. “Fly Girl of the Wall Posse watching The Wild Bunch DJ at their iconic 12-hour set on Campbell Street during the St Pauls festival.”
Ari Up, Stockwell, London, 1985. “One image from loads of shoots that we did throughout the years.”
Four for the Future, Greenway Boys School, Bristol, 1983. “Taken for a college project while I spent a few weeks at a rough comprehensive school in Southmead. People locally call it a rough ‘hood’. The school no longer exists.”

“My advice to any young photographer would be to capture everything around you and not take anything for granted as the time, people or the event might become a key event, even if you don’t realise it then. Young photographers should stick at it, forget filters and get back to the pure essence of photography, composition and the image. People have wrinkles – capture it all.”

Mr Neblett on a police Panda, Bridewell Street, Bristol, 1983. “One of my earliest pictures, taken while I was still at college.”

“For me, my career will never be said and done. Until Now is exactly that – until this moment and then the next. Images are timeless. They last and this is all part of an eternal cycle.”

Until Now by Beezer: book launch and exhibition, 10-12 and 18-19 May, The Friary Building, Quakers Friars, Bristol, BS1 3DF.