Murray Cammick spent a lot of time in the Auckland music scene during the 70s and 80s capturing candid images of both local and international musicians including Iggy Pop, Graham Brazier and Bob Marley. Trevor Reekie speaks to him about some of his photographs.
“You either contribute to the myths/bullshit of rock n roll or you try and show some of the reality of the grind of touring and promotion,” says music photographer Murray Cammick.
“I recall … being delighted that [Craccum’s] music editor … came back from a press conference with a photo of Frank Zappa drinking a cup of tea. How sublimely un-rock n roll!”
“Shooting un-rock ‘n’ roll photos became something to aspire to, so I was pleased to get Iggy Pop in his clunky reading glasses laughing at the Talking Heads story in RipItUp magazine,” says Cammick, reflecting on his music photos for the Capture blog in 2012.
Murray tells Trevor: “Obviously Iggy is what made that photo special, and the fact that he was prepared to just say, ‘take photos while the interview’s on,’ even if [he] was wearing what looked like his mother’s reading glasses (I’ve no idea where he got them from), and even though [he was] wearing a promo t-shirt because [his] washing has had to go to the laundry or whatever, he didn’t care really what he was looking like.
“So it’s sort of better in a way than having the classic photo of Iggy’s abs on stage.”
Among the other stars Cammick shot was Debby Harry: “For years I've regretted that I didn’t capture [her] beauty … but now I am starting to appreciate that they show a tired young woman who briefly leaves an international flight in Auckland to do a day's promo.”
In a time of cultural change, RipItUp and Cammick documented important cultural events such as Bob Marley’s 1979 visit to New Zealand and suburban cultural events like North Shore band The Screaming Meemees playing in a packed suburban hall.
The offices of RipItUp, that Cammick co-published, were never far from Queen St with the most classic location for the magazine being above Stones’ Shoes on the corner of Darby Street and Queen Street.
When RipItUp started in June 1977, Cammick and original editor Alastair Dougal were not aware of how radical the changes in music culture would be as the decade ended. Foreign punk/new wave acts like The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Blondie visited and locals like The Suburban Reptiles, The Scavengers and Toy Love put some energy into the scene.
New Zealand musicians were inspired by the success of Split Enz overseas and original writers like Hello Sailor, Th’ Dudes and Sharon O’Neill found respect for their own songs.
For those who liked their music raw, seedy local venues were the place to worship and the Zwines and Mainstreet mosh-pits were where alienated youth gathered to enjoy the company of kindred-souls.
Cammick’s camera captures the tribal audience as well as the sweaty musicians who command the scene.
Prior to starting RipItUp in 1977, Cammick was the designer of Craccum, Auckland student newspaper in 1976. He studied photography at Elam School of Fine Arts.
Cammick talks through some of the images from the exhibition.
Bob Marley and the Wailers
Anyone who asks me to play soccer has smoked too much dope. Marley asked me that question – after I had retrieved a stray ball, by the park outside his hotel, the White Heron.
I interpreted his question as an indication that he would prefer I stopped taking photos.
As a young photographer I was not too keen on doing ‘music industry’ style photos of a Platinum album presentation or the traditional Maori welcome, the powhiri, but ‘yes’ was the answer when the visitor to New Zealand was Bob Marley.
When RipItUp decided to put five new bands on the cover of the April 1979 issue the ‘group’ interview soon came upon insurmountable ethical and regional issues. Louise Chunn wrote, “To Chris Knox, expatriate Dunedin boy and don’t ever forget it, Aucklanders don’t dance, they pose rather fast.
“And anyway Toy Love don’t want to have people showing enthusiasm or approval through dancing. ‘We’d rather stun them,’ said Knox.”
I have more good photos of Graham Brazier than every other local musician in total. To be blunt, Graham was into having his photo taken, but in my case I think he liked to help me get good photos.
The musician who performs off stage as well as on stage, to some, is a “rock star poseur” but photographers appreciate a little bit of help.
Graham was a poet and a book collector – he had empathy y for poets and writers, and he was not above helping me to get a good photo.
On occasions when I had camera in hand, I’d get a nod from him that said: “this will make a great photo.”
In 1981, The Screaming Meemees played the Northcote Netball Hall and proved that there was life on the North Shore – beyond the toll gates. One of my favourite gigs ever!
In the sandpit and the mosh-pit, you learn to enjoy life and negotiate with other people. I respect bands that make you want to jump up and down and celebrate being alive.