Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock sounds out Scarborough

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock, Scarborough Art Gallery, Scarborough, March 9 – June 16 2013

A black and white photo of a rock band in matching suits standing around their manager
© Harry Hammond / V&A Images
As photography critics go, perhaps you can’t dream of higher praise than that bestowed upon Harry Hammond’s star-capturing shots from the 1950s and early 1960s by Cliff Richard.

“It was always such a pleasure to have him around,” says the man who was a rising star with his backing band, The Shadows, just as a new generation of British youngsters were enjoying unprecedented post-war affluence.

A black and white photos of a 1950s singer in a hat and coat getting off of a plane
© Harry Hammond / V&A Images
Richard credits Hammond’s photos – including ones of the Beatles, Shirley Bassey and visiting Americans such as Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard – with encapsulating the rock and roll mood of the time.

Touring from the V&A, this exhibition features more than 100 of his photographs, starting with pretty much every musician from the late 1940s and travelling through Tin Pan Alley, recording studios, DJs hard at work and the popular telly shows of the era.

Born in the East End, Hammond was initially a society portrait photographer before becoming a reconnaissance artist for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

But he was drawn to the music industry when he returned, becoming the key photographer for the NME. The pop photos he was a pioneer of eventually became ubiquitous.

“I’d seen it all,” he recalls of the later part of his career.

“Jazz, swing, pop, R&B, bossa nova, doo-wop, and, finally, Britain’s acceptance of rock’n’roll.

“With the arrival of the Beatles, and finding that there were now at least 20 photographers at every concert, I decided to slow down.”

The show is soundtracked, naturally, by some raucous rock and roll.

  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @SMTrust.
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