[MAGAZINE] MICHELE POORMAN

The London-based photographer takes us through her most memorable shots, taken at various events in London from the mid-eighties to the early nineties.

The photographs in my collection were taken at various events in London from the mid eighties to the early nineties. The photograph of Mantronix was taken during the filming of their music video ‘Scream’ at Brixton Academy in 1987.

Back in the eighties security wasn’t as tight as it is now and artists were more accessible. I would buy tickets to a show, always within the first three rows of a seated venue. When the day came, I snuck my camera into the venue by putting it into my handbag and filling my bag up with papers. Or I’d wear the camera body under my clothes, put the lens in my bag and give the flash to my sister or my friend. Security would look in your bag but they never touched anything. Once the show had begun I would assemble my camera and the shoot would begin! I was often surrounded by a very rowdy crowd who would surge forward, so security was unable to approach me and confiscate my film.

On occasion I would call record companies in attempt to gain free passes into concert events. If I was unsuccessful, I would try to gain access through the artists’ promoter. Eventually I began working as a freelance photographer for a music magazine called Touch, but most of my photographs were taken before I began working for them.

In the case of my N.W.A photographs, I wrote to the group while they were in America with the same request and their manager wrote back with details of where they were staying in London and when I should make contact. On this occasion I was fortunate enough to travel to Birmingham with them and had full access to take photos of the group, on and off stage.

Getting exclusive access to the N.W.A show was definitely one of those special, once-in-a-lifetime moments. I spent a whole weekend on tour with them; my sister and I became part of their entourage for one weekend only. Michel’le, KoKane and Above the Law were also on tour with them, as well as British rappers, Demon Boyz, London Posse and MC Mell’O.

The hip hop scene back then was fun. It wasn’t just about the music, it was also about the fashion: Goose jackets and Kangol caps, DMC glasses, four-fingered rings, big clock necklaces like Flavor Flav and dance moves like the wop. When the Beastie Boys came to London, people began stealing Volkswagen emblems off cars and wearing them on chains to be like their idols. It was an amazing experience; B-boys and fly girls had great times together and they were definitely identifiable.

When I photographed Jay Z, I had no idea who he was or what impact he would have on the industry. He was the quiet one, Jaz-O was much more talkative. I made friends with a producer called Hamish McDonald who worked at Battery Recording Studios in Willesden, North London. Hamish called me one evening and said there were two guys recording at the studio who were from America and that I should come down and take their photograph. He said, “you never know, one day they might be famous” – I don’t think even he realised how true those words would become!

Read the rest of this story in the Issue of Viper Magazine.

This is an extract from the Autumn/Winter 14 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

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Words and photos by Michele Poorman.