U2, Kate Perry, Arctics and dozens more - Glenn Ashley has photographed every great rock and pop act to play in Sheffield for 21 years. He spoke to Colin Drury ahead of his first ever exhibition...
Glenn Ashley isn’t a man who gets fazed easily.
As perhaps Sheffield’s most respected rock n roll photographers, he’s snapped virtually every group of global superstars to play the city for more than 20 years: U2, Kings Of Leon, Kate Perry, Kiss, and Def Leppard have all fallen under his lens.
He’s taken tea with Cliff Richard, talked retirement with Tina Turner, and told the Arctic Monkeys to stand up straight.
But even Glenn - who is to publicly exhibit his work for the first time next month - still remains bemused about an encounter with Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Woods.
“It was when they played Don Valley Stadium,” he recalls today. “I had a position just below the stage and about half way through he comes over, while he’s still playing guitar and there’s 25,000 fans cheering him - and he leans over slightly and I hear him call down: ‘Alright mate, what camera are you using there?’
“Apparently he’s a bit of a photographer. We ended up having a chat about cameras, all while he’s playing a gig to thousands of fans. Surreal.”
All in a day’s work for a music photographer, it seems.
Pictures from that 1993 gig will form part of the debut exhibition which the 54-year-old - whose work has appeared everywhere from the front page of The Times to billboards in Japan - is now preparing. Images featuring the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Katie Melua, McBusted and Human League onstage and backstage at venues such as the Arena, the Leadmill and The Boardwalk will be displayed at Eten cafe, in York Street, city centre, for two months from July 8.
“I don’t think of my photos as art - they’re taken to document something,” he tells The Diary today, while showing off his collection of thousands. “But a few people have said I’ve seen so many great acts that I should put them together. It seemed like a good idea.”
Included will be his first ever paid gig (Bon Jovi, Sheffield Arena, 1993, covered for The Star) and his most recent (The Sherlocks in the basement of The Rockin Chair, last Saturday).
“My all time favourite?” ponders the father-of-one of Norfolk Park. “Tina Turner in 2009. It was her last ever gig anywhere in world. I remember doing pictures before she went on stage and we were discussing retiring. She’s a living legend but she was lovely.”
And the key to surviving in this flash-y business? Remember you’re there to do a job, says Glenn, who was an armed forces photographer before going freelance in 1993.
“I’ve seen a lot of young photographers fawning over bands,” he notes. “You’re there to work. You never forget that.”
PICTURE PERFECT STARS
GLENN Ashley has snapped the biggest names in the business as they’ve come through Sheffield. And he has a tale or two to tell...
* He snapped the Arctic Monkeys backstage at The Boardwalk, in Snig Hill, just before their rise to fame. “There was an NME photographer there that night,” he remembers. “I told him I’d arranged a backstage shoot if he wanted to come along too. He says to me ‘No, mate, I don’t see these guys getting big’.”
* Gene Simmons of Kiss gave Glenn a thumbs up when he played the Arena. “We didn’t have much time so I was taking pictures fast,” explains the tog. “Gene said: ‘I like the way you do things, pal’, and gave me complimentary tickets for the next night’s gig.”
* People say Cliff Richard is a diva - but Glenn found him fine. “Some stars ask why you’re taking them in certain ways,” he says. “Cliff just got on with it.”