Born in 1947, Michael grew up in Harrow where he took his first pictures at the age of nine before leaving school at sixteen to work as an assistant to various photographers including Time-Life photographer, Walter Curtain and the legendary motor racing photographer, Louis Klemantaski. In 1969 he set up his own studio and by 1971, he was the official photographer for the British music magazine Disc & Music Echo. His first assignment for them that year was to photograph Mick Jagger in London.
From the editorial work for Disc and Music Echo, Sounds and later Smash Hits & Q magazine amongst others, to the 1973 tour with The Rolling Stones that led to a long-standing relationship working with the band, Michael has shot prodigiously including for major record labels including CBS, Warner, Elektra, Polydor, Columbia Records and EMI. Relocating to New York in 1977, it was here that Michael founded the photo agency, Retna which went on to become one of the most respected music and celebrity image libraries in the world.
Music photography has taken Michael around the globe touring with acts as diverse as George Michael in Australia & Japan, The Cure in Brazil, Eric Clapton in the U.S., The Stones as well as intimate shoots with artists at home: David Bowie painting his ceiling at Haddon Hall, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the White Room at Tittenhurst Park, Roger Daltry in his Kitchen, Jeff Beck with his beloved hot rod cars, Billy Joel by the fire in Michael’s own apartment, Keith Richards at his Upstate New York farmhouse, Robert Plant at home in Wales … and being a music lover, Michael always enjoyed the privilege of sharing a recording studio with some of the great artists of the last 50 years from Paul McCartney, Stephen Stills, Rolling Stones, Marc Bolan, Yes and Dave Gilmour to Stephen Sondheim recording Elizabeth Taylor in ‘A Little Night Music’ and Stomu Yamashta with his percussive World Music.
It has been said that Michael photographed everyone from Abba to Zappa … when looking at his archive this is actually true.
Now living in East Sussex, recent exhibitions include “Off The Record” at The Lucy Bell Gallery in Hastings showing images both on and off stage including previously unseen contact sheets; Autumn 2014 saw Michael’s 50 year retrospective at the Getty Gallery in London: “A life in Music, 50 Years On The Road”. whilst Ono Arte in Bologna, Italy has hosted a David Bowie show and ‘Glad to be Glam’ in 2018.
2019 has already been a busy year with the launch of Michael’s 350 page photographic career book ‘The Music I Saw’ launched with an exhibition at Paul Smith shops in New York and London.
Michael continues to shoot the artists he most admires – likely to be jazz, classical and world musicians, who have always provided an alternative narrative to his rock music portfolio.
“It has been a fantastic ride through an incredible period of music history, which combined my two great loves … music and photography. Little did I appreciate, when my Uncle Alan encouraged my photography back in the 1950s, that this would lead me to photographing nearly all of my heroes … and thrilled to be still finding new ones. A great never ending journey.” Michael Putland