Sunday, March 25, 2012

Remembering Eric Watson and the eternal struggle between editors and photographers

Eric Watson died last week at the age of 56. He did the lion's share of the photography for Smash Hits during the early 80s. I think this picture of Lee Thomson from 1982 may be the first one. It was actually shot for Stiff Records. I was the editor at the time. We liked Eric's style because it was bright without being corny and captured that innocence on the edge of knowing which was so much part of the magazine's personality. This was the first of scores of Eric's photos that appeared in the magazine, many of them on the cover.

When I think back it's extraordinary the amount of effort that we put into picture sessions in those days. I remember spending two days at Eric's studio in Wandsworth helping organise a session for the Smash Hits yearbook. It was supposed to depict the changing face of a teenagers bedroom between the 50s and the 90s (which had yet to occur). Somehow we actually built a set in Eric's studio. And this was for an annual.

The relationship between magazine editors and photographers is always a difficult one. The former regard their business as commerce. The latter think it's art. Eric's work started off as one and ended up as the other, with exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery. In the grown-up world of galleries and art dealers I'm sure they appreciate many of the qualities that made Eric Watson's pictures so beautiful and clever. What they'll never appreciate is what they did for you at the news stand.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard about that until I read your post. That's a real shame - the Pet Shop Boys were hugely influential to me in my youth, mainly for their music, but their image also seemed so measured, so controlled, and I think their early shots with Eric Watson had a lot to do with that.