Born in Bristol, UK in 1965. Beezer is a documentary photographic artist of the street. From the 1980s he has documented the UK hip hop scene, riots, strikes and urban life. His work has taken him across the world to Barcelona, Morocco, Egypt and finally Japan. His last Japanese exhibition celebrated the launch of his book “Wild Days”, which became a photographic classic. Tokyo Weekender sat down with Beezer for a brief interview ahead of his latest show, Voices.
Tell us about your latest Tokyo exhibition:
The project is called Voices, at Diesel art gallery [in Shibuya]. It’s the biggest project we’ve done in Japan since the book launch—Wild Days.
Last time we had twelve simultaneous exhibitions going on across Japan, it was unprecedented. For Adidas Styles shop, we had 130 images, It was a bit like a marathon. We had to send them out all framed at once! So it was interesting to do the logistics.
This exhibition is much simpler, It’s very special and very personal.
How has your work changed since Wild Days?
This time is more aiming at music, art and politics and is a representation again of what was going on at the time.
And guess what? Back then it was Reagan, ‘stop bombing Libya’, Nelson Mandela, Egypt etc.
I was taking photos of things unrepresented at the time—and guess what? Twenty years down the line they become topical stories.
It’s not just photos this time too, we are going to have soundscapes, prints on canvas—four meters wide, lot’s of different mediums.
What was it like working with Diesel?
I don’t get too involved, I leave it to my agent (John Boreland). Let’s just say we go down the middle on terms of creativity.
It’s like running a magazine. Everyone has their opinion on what should be on the cover, or how many pages the feature should be, you have to compromise but still retain your creativity, so there is always a balance.
You’ve taken photos of so many famous people over the years, what’s it like looking back?
Looking back is amazing, people say oh there’s Massive Attack and there’s Tricky or Bob Geldof.
Now people know them, so It’s quite interesting how things turned around.
For the music magazines I was working for back in the day I was just sent to photograph Indie bands that were unheard of and now it’s a whole genre of music. It’s really incredible.
What does it feel like to display your work in somewhere as busy as Shibuya?
It’s very exciting, we expect 400-500 people at the opening (November 17th). Preparing this exhibition was really like a DJ digging through the crates, it was amazing, there was so much to rediscover.
Do you take pictures in Japan?
I shoot all the time in Tokyo, I do commissions, I do my own stuff, and I run a photography school.
VOICES by Beezer info:
As the world listen’s and see’s the Voices Of Youth, using Facebook, Twitter (the Voice Of Combined Thought?), we look at Beezer’s imagery that represents Images Of Voices and how they were seen and heard, in the UK and in Barcelona in the mid 1980’s when the voices of people manifested themselves into song and art. It is this period that talks to us in VOICES!
The cycles of history are apparent.
The Voices of Music from Sound Systems in clubs and on the streets. The Voices Of Protest with placards and signs. The Voices Of Art painted on walls as graffiti. The Voices of People dancing together in clubs, sitting together on the streets, being together in the world.
These Voices are from a periood of social, economic and political turmoil. It was the UK of the 1980’s. It was Margaret Thatcher’s UK. Ask Mark Stewart described it, “It was the running battles of the miners’ strike. It was the stop and search law. The inner cities were tinder boxes. It was the summer of a thousand fires. First St Paul’s, Bristol then Toxteth, Brixton.”
In Barcelona, voices called against anti-apartheid, against NATO and Reagan, against military action. In Cairo, we see the Egyptian children that would rise in the spring of 2011.
They were stressful and dangerous times. They were then as we are now…
VOICES by Beezer is at Diesel Gallery in Shibuya until January 29, 2012.
Official site: beezerphotos.com