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DECEMBER 3 1967
was my first day at work as a professional photographer, I was sixteen.
I eagerly began working with famed music photographer, Dezo Hoffmann at his London studio.
The studio where he had photographed the Beatles, Stones and in my second week, Jimi.
I missed the Beatle era, but did get to photograph them eight months later.

This is my 1967 passport picture, by Dezo. Somewhere I have pictures of me that first week.
49 years later I am just as excited about photography. I always loved nature and landscapes. When I was a boy I photographed the coastal scenes and documented my family. I was a Beatle fan, so I got a job with their photographer, soon I was shooting pop stars myself.
Six months later I was laid off and went freelance from the studio.

2017 will be my 50th professional anniversary, to be celebrated by a retrospective book and more to be announced during the coming yearI


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49 years later!
Photograph by Jimmy Abegg in his Nashville studio, with my X100T - 9.22.16

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DECEMBER 3 2015

48 years ago today, on DECEMBER 3rd 1967
I began work as a professional photographer at Dezo Hoffmann’s London studio.

I walked out of school at sixteen
and got a job with the Beatles photographer. In my 2nd week I was assistant on a Jimi Hendrix session.
Within days I was shooting pop press pictures for the Record Mirror, as Dezo was their photo department.
My first magazine cover was February '68.
I worked for Dezo for six months until he laid me off (when he lost the Record Mirror contract) and set me on the path of being a freelance. I continued working from his studio until transferring to Gered Mankowitz’ studio (another great music photographer), where I also freelanced and set up a darkroom, until moving into a shared studio with my brother, David and onward to my own London studio and then to Nashville.
I was so excited to start work that morning of December 3rd ’67.

I had been a keen amateur for nine years, now I was photographing pop stars.

48 years later I am just as enthralled and excited about photography as I was on that first day.
Hopefully I’ve learned something along the way and have become a better photographer.

My pictures have been published hundreds, maybe thousands of times, I have photographed and/or designed hundreds of album covers, shot thousands of rolls of film and far too many digital images. Today was no exception!

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This picture is from around 1968, possibly by Dezo Hoffmann or one of his assistants. I think I made the print.

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I was born in England, April 9th 1951.
The eldest of three sons and a daughter to Peter and Mary Messer.

I began my career in London on December 3rd 1967,
relocating to Nashville, May 28th 1978.

I started shooting professionally on December 3rd 1967
when I joined Dezo Hoffmann's London studio at sixteen as his assistant. I shot my first magazine cover a few days later.

In 1968 (six months later) I began my freelance career, working from Dezo's studio. I have worked independently ever since.


Me at Dezo Hoffmann's Studio where I freelanced from 1968 till 1974.
Self portrait. 20 Gerrard Street, London - 1973


Me at my Broadway Studio, Nashville 1988


This is my 49th year as a professional photographer
and my 38th year of living in Nashville.

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings were the first artists I photographed
when I arrived in Nashville on assignment in 1977.


Waylon 1977
This is one of my first Nashville photographs.


I was brought up in England like most children of the baby boom era, being familiar with TV westerns, Davy Crockett and listening to cowboy songs:
“She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”, “Yellow Rose of Texas”, Roy Rogers’ “Champion The Wonder Horse” and “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley.
I bought my first camera (a Kodak Brownie 127) when I was seven years old, and have taken photographs ever since.

I became a professional in London at sixteen photographing the British rock and pop scene, then moved to Nashville in 1978, where I have photographed many of the great country musicians.

During the past thirty years I have been involved with hundreds of album/CD covers, either as a photographer and often as an art director/designer. My vision of Nashville stems from my British heritage and from hearing skiffle on the jukebox as a teenager.

I have seen many changes in the Nashville community and music business since my introduction in 1977.



I use Kodak film.

Some Nashvillians still think I speak "real funny".
Waylon once told me “You need to learn to speak proper, Hoss!”



My first commissioned album - 1978
Client: Anchor Records (London)

Artist: Cado Belle / design: Seabrook, Graves and Aslet

 

My first LP album cover was
Bobbie Gentry's "Ill Never Fall In Love Again" (EMI-UK)


Photographed in Manchester Square, London - May 1968

 

MAGazines (include)
Beach Culture, Ray Gun, SNOWboarding, Surfer, Rolling Stone, Spin, Q, Mojo, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Musician, NME, CMP, Bass Player, Guitar, Billboard, Oxford American,
People, Cowboys & Indians, ...

CLIENTS (include)
Sony, BMG, Columbia, Elektra, Time-Warner, ABC, RCA, MCA, Universal,

Lost Highway, Mercury, Dead Reckoning, Texas Music Group, Lava/Atlantic, Johnny Cash, Stubb's BBQ, London University /Institute of Historical Research

MUSICIANS photographed (include)
Beatles, Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The Who, Diana Ross, Deep Purple, Elton John, Bill Haley, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lucinda Williams, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Dwight Yoakam, ....

 

I have been photographing musicians for forty nine years, been widely published, have worked on hundreds of album covers and have been fortunate to win a Grammy, plus garnered some print media and advertising awards.
But the greatest reward is the photograph itself.
My passion for photography is burning stronger than ever.


© Photograph by Bebe - 8.18.15

MAY 28 2016
38 Years in Nashville.

On MAY 28th 1978 (my Father’s sixtieth birthday) he drove me to London’s Gatwick Airport where I boarded a flight to Dallas, Ft Worth. There I bought a white bicentennial Chevrolet Impala and drove it to Nashville where my new apartment on 16th Avenue (Music Row) awaited. I had jobs lined up and set to work immediately.
The 80’s were boom years, I racked up hundreds of album covers, photographed many notable musicians in my studio, won a Grammy (album packaging) and was probably shooting a session every day.
I was introduced to Johnny Cash in ’87 (we had met briefly in ’77) and a lifelong friendship and hundreds of photographs ensued.
I have been a professional photographer for 48 years. It can take a long time to be oneself. The past few years have been amazing.
I am shooting more pictures than ever. There is more to tell, but let’s save that for another day.
Today would have been my Father’s 98th birthday.
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SUNDAY TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE feature (UK)
Published October 5th
2014

Interview Published May 2014


biography

Alan left school at sixteen to become a professional photographer in London. He shot his first magazine cover a few days later (Manfred Mann promoting "The Mighty Quinn"), the second, published September 14th 1968, was the Beatles promoting the Yellow Submarine film.

Alan insatiably photographed the British rock and pop scene, working from Dezo Hoffmann's studio, first as an apprentice and then in 1968 as a freelance photo-journalist photographer, during which time he photographed such artists as: The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, The Kinks, T.Rex and George Harrison. Alan left Hoffmann's studio to work briefly with renowned music photographer, Gered Mankowitz (still as a freelance), before opening his own London studio.

During the seventies Messer was the independent resident Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC) photographer and was tour photographer for Iggy Pop, Deep Purple and photographed many visiting touring US bands and artists including several country music musicians, both in his studio and on the road. 
With "itchy feet", excited by America and it's commercial possibilities, Messer moved from his native England to Nashville and opened a studio there in 1978. An amazing opportunity to photograph the country music scene unfolded. 
The Los Angeles based record companies hired Alan instead of importing their West Coast based photographers. He got the work and the budgets were spent on the photography and not wasted on travel and accommodation.

During the 80s Alan was often shooting a session a day, many of which were LP album covers. His nights were spent printing in his darkroom. After a few years of a pounding schedule, he was forced into a break.
During this transition period, Alan was introduced to silk-screen printing, which immediately became commercially successful and he won a Grammy in 1989 in the Album Packaging category.
A screen print of his photograph of Johnny Cash set the stage for a series of ten albums for CBS Records (now Sony) called “American Originals”.  The Cash print, although not part of the series, defined the graphic style. Alan was about to return home to England when he consequently became so in demand with photography and printmaking, that he never left Nashville. 

 

A limited edition book of my JOHNNY CASH photographs
(1977 - 2003) is to be published in by Genesis Publications, working title,
JOHNNY CASH American Legend
.

 

Alan Messer_biography 2007

 

click PRESS PASS 1973 for access
to personal archived "happy snaps"

 

 


My rubber stamp for freelance photography, 1968 - 1974

 

Below is one of my early photographs published in 1968
The Small Faces are posing on the roof of Immediate Records,
New Oxford Street, London.


L-R: Ronnie "Plonk" Lane, Ian MacLagen, Kenny Jones, Steve Marriott
photography by Alan Messer 1968 © Rex Features Ltd.

 

I use Kodak film

My Nikon is always loaded with a roll of Kodak film.
In the studio I use Tri-X 35mm and 120mm in my Hasselblad
TMAX-3200 is a favourite because It allows me to go anywhere
and has a wonderful grain and tonal range
.

Digital
Currently I shoot with two Nikon D800's, Fuji X100S, Fuji X-PRO2 and an iPhone

 


"I love music, photography, writing, theatre, beautiful women, wide open spaces, family gatherings, the sea, walking in the woods, efficiency, most art,
cooking, some wines, most dogs, some cats, birds, trees, flowers, some people, good food and conversation, honesty, hard work, originality
and my personal freedom."

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