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Rock and Punk era brought to life in a new photography exhibition at National Museum Cardiff
Lemmy Kilmister, London, 1982.

CARDIFF.- A unique retrospective showcasing photographs of legendary musicians from the 1970's and 1980's, Chalkie Davies – the NME years is being shown at National Museum Cardiff from 9 May – 6 September 2015.

Welsh photographer Chalkie Davies worked for the New Musical Express (NME) publication from 1975 to 1979 and this exhibition, which looks back at this much revered musical era, celebrates 40 years since his career at NME began and also coincides with his 60th birthday.

This retrospective, which is supported by NME, features a largely unseen collection of 64 black and white images of many important bands and musicians including The Clash, The Specials, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy and The Who.

Born in 1955 and growing up in Sully, South Wales, Chalkie was drawn to the hub of the music industry in London at the tender age of 16. While there he discovered a passion for photography. Success followed when he photographed David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour and by 1975 Chalkie was employed as a staff photographer for NME. He photographed all the key players in this ground-breaking and much revered musical era.

It was the heyday of the publication’s popularity with over 200,000 copies selling every week. Whilst bands and musicians were usually photographed live, or while being interviewed, Chalkie preferred to pose his subjects, often using carefully chosen backgrounds from around the globe. He followed his subjects, frequently visiting America, Europe and even Asia, working with artists like Ian Dury, Debbie Harry, Elton John, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney.

After leaving NME in 1979, Chalkie went on to contribute to a new music magazine called The Face. At the same time he was photographing record covers for The Specials, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, and subsequently moved into the studio where he shot LP sleeves and formal portraits for artists like Pete Townshend, David Gilmour and David Bowie.

By the mid-1980s, Chalkie felt the need to change his focus and headed to the United States of America to pursue a new career as a still life photographer.

Before leaving the UK Chalkie put all of his work for both NME and the Face into a vault, deciding to leave them unseen for 25 years, wondering what cultural relevance they may have when he finally decided to reassess his work.

Chalkie has spent the last five years cataloguing his archive and selecting, restoring, and printing the works on display in this show.

He says, “Music was the one thing that really interested me when I was a teenager in south Wales, that and electronics, I had this dream of working for a band, but I never had any aspirations of being in the group itself, I also borrowed my father’s camera, and used to go off taking pictures at Barry Scrapyard, this was where all the steam trains were sent to die.

“I am very humbled that National Museum Cardiff is hosting my photography in this retrospective. This exhibition brings together my work from a special time in the world of music. It is a mixture of documentary work for the NME and a collection of unseen studio portraits of people like Suggs, Ian Dury, Joe Strummer, Chrissie Hynde, and Paul Weller.

“Photographically, I have led a privileged life, albeit an elusive and reclusive one, but as the ripe old age of sixty approaches I think it might be time to tell my tale, how a kid from Sully can go to London all alone, and end up getting the one job he always wanted, and then to work with all the people he admired, to help shape and mould them visually, to create the images the fans would see, and most importantly remember.

“That's the key to it all, the images must be definitive, iconic I guess, and if kids put those photos on their bedroom wall then I had done my job properly.

But one thing drove it all. It was the photos that were important, not the guy who took them...”

Mike Williams, NME Editor, said, “We are incredibly proud to be associated with this exhibition, which showcases the work of a true NME legend. Chalkie Davies is responsible for some of the most iconic photographs in NME magazine’s history, and following on from his Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2014 NME Music Photography Awards, we are delighted that his collection is now captured in this exciting new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff.”

Janice Lane, Director of Learning, Exhibitions and Digital Media, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said, “The name ‘Chalkie Davies’ may not be familiar to everyone but his images are widely recognised. Between 1975 and 1985 Chalkie had unparalleled access to the music world through his work for the NME and the Face. We are thrilled that his collection containing many previously unseen black and white photographs is on display at the museum.

“We have an exciting programme of public events coinciding with this exhibition including talks, a Creative Industry Careers Day and night time live music events in the museum in association with Spillers Records.

“We hope visitors to the museum enjoy this unique display which documents a relationship between popular music and photo-journalism that no longer exists.”

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