15 Jul 2018

Rockstar photography: Maryanne Bilham and Robert Knight

From Sunday Morning, 11:08 am on 15 July 2018

Photographers Maryanne Bilham and Robert Knight have spent their careers capturing the images of music royalty.

They have trained their lenses on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana, Cyndi Lauper and more recently New Zealand's Alien Weaponry.

Now Bilham and Knight, who until recently were based in the US, have settled in Auckland where they have set up the Anthology Lounge.

Knight was born in Hawaii, and started his career photographing the then-new wave of rock stars in the late '60s, when he was still in his teens.

"I started with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart on the Truth tour and within a month I was working with Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Jethro Tull and Ten Years After.

"It was ridiculous, the most epic work I did in my life was my first year."

Access was easier back then, he says. His shots of Hendrix at the Winterland in 1968 are still famous.

"It was in the days before backstage passes, before publicists, I walked in, I had a camera and everyone just got out of my way. I just kept walking forward and ended up at the foot of the stage and I only had one roll of film and I took 14 pictures.

"I had never seen or heard anything sonically like this, it was just hitting me in the solar plexus."

He met Bilham in Hong Kong, and the pair are now back in her homeland of New Zealand as enthused by music as ever - particularly emerging local talent.

Bilham came out of the early 1980s Auckland arts scene and learnt her trade as a photographer at Parachute Studio. She recently took a famous shot of thrash metal band Alien Weaponry on the beach.

"I had an idea of shooting them because I'd seen these Māori symbolic pieces that they had, and I thought it might be really cool to shoot them with those, so organised an impromptu shoot.

"We shot for about an hour and a half: from that we got that image that's been used everywhere."

Bilham gave the image to the band to use in their promotional material, and says they both want to help give a platform to New Zealand talent.

"I think it's an incubator down here for talent," Knight says.

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