Harry Hammond pioneers the rock and roll photo at Leamington Art Gallery and Museum

By Mark Sheerin | 04 August 2010
A 1950s black and white photo of Cliff Richard combing his hair in a mirror

(Above) Cliff Richard is among the early stars captured by Hammond. Image: Leamington Art Gallery and Museum

Exhibition: Harry Hammond – Halfway to Paradise, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, Leamington Spa, until September 5 2010

In a genre where looks are inseparable from product, the rock photographer is a key part of the package. So without iconic shots by Harry Hammond, we may have had a few less pop culture icons.

Hammond took definitive, early photos of such acts as The Beatles, The Stones, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Shirley Bassey. He was the go-to guy for pictures at no less a publication than the NME, which launched way back in 1952.

Before capturing the rise of youth culture, Hammond was a society portrait taker and then flew reconnaissance missions with the RAF. If rock and roll was to later shake the establishment, it could not have had more respectable beginnings.

More than 100 prints from a collection at London's Victoria and Albert Museum are now on display at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum. The show features a period soundtrack, an interactive quiz, and a number of evocative artefacts.

The 1960s were something of a heyday for the Warwickshire town, which then boasted a World Champion boxer and a Miss Great Britain among its residents. Hammond also spent the last years of his life there.

During a global age where not even Lady Gaga is as big as The Beatles once were, this is a show which might give you one reason why.

Admission free. Open 10.30am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday (1.30pm – 8pm Thursday, 11am – 4pm Sunday).

Summer Art Club for families, inspired by the exhibition, runs every Thursday during August, 2pm – 4pm. Sessions last 30 minutes, final entry 3.30pm.

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