The Beautiful and Moody, As Shot by Bryan Adams

Photo: Bryan Adams

A photo shoot gone wrong inspired Canadian singer Bryan Adams to start taking self-portraits for his album covers. He loved the process and soon began shooting fashion photography editorials for publications including Harper’s Bazaar, Zoo, and i-D. And his first book, Exposed, a retrospective available now, documents twelve years of images by the musician, who’s touring this month. “There is no such thing as a side project,” Adams told the Cut. He would shoot someone like Jared Leto during the day, then play a gig the same night. With introductions from Elton John and Daphne Guinness, Adams’s book also includes intimate portraits of high-profile celebrities like Queen Elizabeth II, Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger, Sean Penn, and more. Below, read our interview with Adams as we chatted about the new release; then click through our slideshow for exclusive photos from the retrospective.

How did you choose the title Exposed?
I wanted to reference the idea of light exposing film, that sort of nod to technical things and double entendre of people exposing themselves.

How did you get into photography?
I really enjoyed the artistry of it. Because way before there was Photoshop, you had to go in and get your pictures printed, so sometimes you’d spend hours going back and forth getting one single print. And it wasn’t like you could just hit a button and press file save. You had to start again. There’s something wonderful about that. 

Do you still use film? Or are you all digital now.
No, I don’t. But I really have to say, my education in photography was really from the people that printed my pictures. They turned a lot of really crappy negatives into pretty nice pictures.

What photographers influenced your interest in pursuing the medium?
Certainly, all the guys I worked with in my career as a musician were hugely influential. And then New York photographers had the magic: [Richard] Avedon, and I love the humor and vulgarity of [Helmut] Newton.

What’d you learn from being photographed as a musician?
What was interesting was to see how everyone worked in a completely different way. I can remember one time I asked my record company to get a certain photographer. His name, which I don’t want to mention, sounded like another name. They hired this guy, and when he showed up, I said to him, “I love that picture you took of David Bowie,” and he said, “I’ve never worked with David Bowie.”

Oh no.
In that moment, I thought to myself, I don’t need to be going through all of this; I can take the pictures myself.

Did that photo shoot turn into a self-portrait session?
Well, it didn’t at the time. I sort of went through the motions and later on, I thought it didn’t really capture what I wanted, so I went ahead and did it myself.

What kind of music, if any, do you like to listen to on your shoots?
Mostly reggae.

This slideshow has been reflected to correct the identification of Watkin Tudor Jones.