Dennis Morris’ latest exhibition, titled “The Day of the Roses “runs until the end of the month at the Tapestry Gallery in Soho where he will be exhibiting previously unseen images of the Stone Roses’ legendary gigs at Spike Island and Glasgow Green.
Renowned photographer Dennis Morris was 11 years old when one of his photos was published on the front page of the Daily Mail. At the time he was known as “Mad Dennis” in his neighbourhood due to his love of photography over football.
Photographing a feisty PLO demonstration and selling his photos to a Fleet Street agency for £16 Dennis soon realised that his great passion could be done for a living.
Whilst bunking off school in 1975, Dennis got the big break he needed. Waiting for Bob Marley, to do a sound check at a speakeasy. Marley was so impressed with Dennis’s attitude that he invited him to join him for the rest of his tour. In a breath, Dennis had his bags packed and was away on the bus with the rest of the entourage. The resulting images of Bob Marley and The Wailers are now iconic, appearing on the covers of Melody Maker and Time Out. All this was before Dennis had turned 17 years of age.
One young reggae fan, Johnny Rotten, was so impressed with the work Dennis had achieved that he asked him to take the first official photographs of his group The Sex Pistols as they signed a contract with Virgin Records. Having gained their trust, The Pistols granted him unrestricted access into their chaotic world. Joined at the hip for a year taking hundreds of undisputed classic shots of the band. With the split of the Pistols, Dennis joined John Lydon and Richard Branson on a trip to Jamaica in search of young reggae artists for Branson’s label.
Enjoying working in A&R , Dennis started work as Art Director for Island Records and began designing album covers for the likes of Marianne Faithfull and Bob Marley. He also signed the bands The Slits and LKJ to the label. Still working closely with Lydon, Dennis was a key figure in the creation of the PiL sleeves and band logo as well as the innovative metal box album packaging. Amongst all of this Dennis was also forming his own black punk band Basement 5, for whom he later replaced the great Don Letts as lead singer.
Dennis Morris had an impressive career spanning more than 40 years, photographing artists such as Lee Scratch Perry, Oasis, The Prodigy, Supergrass, Radiohead and Bush . Several compilations of his work have been published containing images that have appeared throughout the world, in publications including Rolling Stone, Time, People Magazine and Vogue.
His collection of photographs from the Black community in Hackney, entitled “Growing Up Black”, is part of the permanent collection of Hackney Museum.
“Black people can´t earn a living from jobs like that” remarked his school career teacher.
With such style Dennis proved him oh so wrong.
The Tapestry Gallery is at 51-52 Frith Street,
0871 971 4362.
All words Nicolas Cope. More features by Nicolas can be found here.