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Picture This: Blondie by Martyn Goddard - Snap Galleries

Debbie Harry

Exhibition preview

FROM August 16 to September 24, 2016, central London’s specialist photography gallery Snap is presenting Picture This: Blondie by Martyn Goddard which, as the title suggests, is an exhibition of Martyn Goddard’s photographs of Blondie.

The photographs were taken in New York and London in 1978.

These intimate portraits of Debbie Harry and the band capture them in the recording studio for their Parallel Lines album; on stage and offstage in Philadelphia supporting Alice Cooper; at New York’s Palladium Theatre; in NYC’s Gramercy Park hotel for a Sunday Telegraph cover feature; on a New York rooftop for a shoot for the cover for their Best of Blondie LP; and finally in London for a gallery launch to promote the release of their Picture This single.

Martyn Goddard sets the scene on his sessions with Blondie in 1978:

In May 1978 I took a £99 Freddie Laker DC10 flight to New York to spend a week with Blondie. I stayed in the Gramercy Park Hotel and shot Debbie Harry for a piece which became a cover story for the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. On that same trip I travelled with the group to Philadelphia when they were the support band for Alice Cooper, and also enjoyed photographing their one-off gig at the Palladium in New York.

My second visit to photograph the band took place a month later, whenI returned to New York in late June 1978, and found myself in the Record Plant studios in New York City with them. They were in the studio recording their third album Parallel Lines.

When I arrived at the recording studio for the first photo session for their record company Chrysalis – one of several planned for the week – I could sense a tense atmosphere. As a photographer, shooting in recording studios was always a problem on a technical level with period camera equipment and film stock, in what were very dark functional spaces.

Additionally, one had to work around the process of recording a record. It was soon evident that Blondie, and Debbie Harry in particular, were having issues with record producer Mike Chapman. Two conflicting forces were in play: the group’s New York punk heritage (and their one take and done attitude) and Mike Chapman’s quest for West Coast perfection.

While I shot the images you can see on the contact sheet, Debbie would be singing short vocal passages which were over-dubbed time after time. This explains the various facial expressions she was making to the camera. Stiflingly boring in production for all members of the band, the album was to take six weeks to record.

Despite the record companies doubts about the album, it produced hit singles and reached number 6 in the US Billboard chart and number 1 in the UK album chart. The rest is history.

In August 1978, in association with Chrysalis Records and the Telegraph Sunday Magazine, I staged the exhibition Blondie in Camera at the Mirandy Gallery in Glentworth Street, London. It was a collection of the images from the two shoots in New York that year. The exhibition opening was to be the media launch of the latest single Picture This and the presentation of a silver disc for Plastic Letters album.

At 2.30pm on August 14 the band arrived, making their way through the crowded street full of fans who had been waiting all that morning. I certainly enjoyed the event which was given serious media coverage and we were able to sell signed prints for the bands favourite charity supporting diabetes research. Over the two weeks of the exhibition, three life size cut outs of Debbie Harry and the white label kissed LP that I used for the Parallel Lines picture disc shot all went AWOL!

Martyn Goddard graduated from Harrow College of Technology & Art in the early 1970’s during a period assisting acclaimed photographer Gered Mankowitz, Martyn Goddard, he became a regular face on the new wave music scene of the seventies and early eighties. This was an era of LP picture discs with serious budgets requiring creative photography.

Photographing acts such as Blondie, The Jam, The Cure, Sham 69, Ian Dury, and Toyah led to commissions from Queen and Elton John’s Rocket Records in the rock mainstream.

 While working for the Sunday Telegraph Magazine, You and Sunday Times Magazine in the 1980’s Goddard shot portraits and features with recording acts such as Genesis, U2, Jethro Tull, UB40 and Wham, progressing to portraits of great writers, artists, actors and politicians.

A period of working with Wham in the late 1980’s, including their groundbreaking tour of China, closed a chapter of life within the music business.

Goddard went on to work for Car magazine, creating new techniques of automotive and travel photography.

Image: Debbie Harry on the roof of The Record Plant studio, New York in 1978 taking a break from recording The Parallel Lines album.

Admission: Free.

Times: Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 6pm; Saturday, 11am to 5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Snap Galleries, 12 Piccadilly Arcade, London, SW1Y 6NH

Telephone: +44(0)20 7493 1152

Website: www.snapgalleries.com/