It’s showtime for music snapper Chris’s ‘messy’ pursuit of the Hawley grail

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IN 10 years Richard Hawley has gone from former guitarist with a bunch of bands who enjoyed varying degrees of success to acclaimed solo artist. And one man who has captured many of the moments on his journey from one-time Longpigs and Pulp member to City Hall filler is Chris Saunders.

Already a prolific photographer who has captured many of Sheffield’s musical successes and runners-up, he has picked his favourite Hawley images for an exhibition, opening Saturday.

The selection appears at friend and artist Pete McKee’s gallery A Month Of Sundays, at Hunters Bar.

McKee and Hawley once shared a flat in Sheffield when they both worked at HMV.

“I first became aware of Richard’s music around 2001,” reveals Chris, who borrowed Hawley’s first two records.

“I was familiar with his music with Longpigs and I probably was expecting something along the same lines.

“I was astounded at how good they were.

“I found it difficult to comprehend how a guitarist with a band like Longpigs could be coming up with tunes like this and have a voice like his which he’d never really used.

“I’ve since got to know Richard’s history and the kind of music he grew up with, but back then I had no idea, and I had no expectation of hearing such beautifully intimate and melancholic tunes that evoked such past greats as Roy Orbison and Lee Hazlewood.”

But it was when Chris went along to see Hawley play The Leadmill in support of full debut album Late Night Final that he got to experience the musician’s inimitable personality.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting stand up comedy in between songs,” recalls Chris, who later photographed Hawley ‘properly’ for music magazine Sandman having arranged to meet in The Washington.

“The day ended quite messily about eight hours later.

“I’m really not quite sure how the pictures came out at all, never mind as well as they did.”

The exhibition will include similar stories from others who know Hawley and some of his adventures best, the likes of radio host Marc Riley and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey.

Chris’s “by necessity highly edited” collection will be on display at 365 Sharrow Vale Road until December 3.

“It’s been good to watch him grow as an artist and become ever more popular over this period,” adds the lensman.

“It’s also been amusing to see him looking as cool as he can on TV, and then when he’s back home watching that image shattered over nine pints.”