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'Homeless' by Bryan Adams exhibited in the UK for the first time at Atlas Gallery
Bryan Adams, Sam Woodlock, A The Big Issue vendor, 2017 © Bryan Adams. Image courtesy Atlas Gallery.

LONDON.- Atlas Gallery is presenting Homeless, a selection of individual photographic portraits of vendors of The Big Issue magazine, taken in London by international musician and esteemed photographer, Bryan Adams. Photographed between 2011 and 2017, these men and women face the camera, comfortable in their own skin, and with grace and directness born of trust in the man behind the camera. There is laughter, introspection and poise, and the possibility of life restored. This is self-exposure but, above all, in the middle of an international pandemic, these portraits are a stark reminder that there are still far too many homeless people on our streets. This exhibition at Atlas Gallery, London W1, is the first time that the works are being shown in the UK.

The Big Issue newspaper was founded by Lord John Bird and Gordon Roddick in 1991 as a response to the increasing number of homeless and vulnerably housed people. Lord Bird has said of the photographs that Bryan Adams “is making all of us look again. There is nothing nice or exotic about them. They are not the sad faces of the poor and troubled. They are each unique individuals that Bryan has recorded and held for us to think on… The geography of their individual faces and their bodies. Their hard knocks and rough nights out are in evidence everywhere. No one passes through life this way without that accumulation of evidence.”

Each sitter is shown against a plain studio background, away from the viewer’s preconceptions. There is a sense of what it means to be a Big Issue vendor for people who have been homeless, a sense of pride, spontaneous laughter and even joy.

“There is energy in this group,” said Lord Bird. “They are more than their passage through life. They are at times canny, funny, handsome, marked sharp or thoughtful. And sometimes they are more than anything we can say about them; like all those whose circumstances have taken to the street. I know that in my looking at them, in our looking at them, they are just as much looking back at us.”

Given the opportunity by Bryan Adams to select a group of his photographs for an exhibition this year, Ben Burdett, director of Atlas Gallery, did not hesitate to request these particular portraits:

“During the last year, many of us have been in our homes appreciating the protection and sanctuary they offer, and that has made me think deeply about people who have no homes in which to take refuge,” says Burdett. “However isolated we may feel during lockdown, those without families, or even four walls to retreat to, are more on the edge than ever. The pandemic has revealed that the numbers of homeless sleeping rough in the UK is way higher than anyone ever thought. Not only that, but the pandemic has resulted in more than 70,000 further households being made homeless through evictions. Bryan’s photographs are a powerful reminder.”

This is not the first time Bryan Adams has used his photographic skills to bring a group of individuals who have been side-lined to our attention – ‘Homeless’ can be seen as a continuation of his 2013 ‘Wounded: The Legacy of War’, portraits of young British soldiers who suffered life-changing injuries during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, this is a project that comes straight from the heart.

Bryan Adams’ photography: the faces that have defined our times

During his parallel career as a photographer, Bryan Adams has also photographed many fellow musicians, including, Mick Jagger (2008), Plácido Domingo (2009), Sir Elton John, and Lana Del Ray (2012); and actors, Jennifer Aniston (2004), Lindsay Lohan (2007), Samantha Morton (2020) and Morgane Polanski (2020); sportsman, Muhammad Ali (2016); politician, Hillary Clinton (2004), who used his image for both her presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016; writer, Margaret Atwood (2008); models, Naomi Campbell (2000), Kate Moss (2013) and Lottie Moss (2016); and royalty, including The Queen, whose photograph by him taken during her Golden Jubilee was selected for a Canadian postage stamp in 2004. The following year Adams photographed The Queen with Prince Philip, which is now held in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Adams’ photography is held in European and international private and public collections.* There are 24 more of his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London, including of the Sunday Times foreign correspondent, Marie Colvin (2008); the writer, Salman Rushdie (2007); designers, Dame Vivienne Westwood (2008) and Sir Hardy Amies (2005); actress, Tilda Swinton (2008); gallerist, Sadie Coles (2008); artist, Annie Morris (2008); and the lawyer and seventh Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Zubaida Khan (2008).

Self-taught, Adams documented his own work on tour long before he became a professional photographer in the late 1990s. In 2000 he played with The Who at the Royal Albert Hall, where he took photographs of the band and himself for a booklet to accompany the DVD. Since then, he has shot record covers for Annie Lennox (The Annie Lenox Collection), Amy Winehouse (Lioness, Hidden Treasures), Status Quo (Aquostic, Stripped Bare), Diana Krall (Wallflower) and Anastacia (Ultimate Collection).

‘American Women’, a cross section of influential women photographed by Adams wearing Calvin Klein was released by Powerhouse Books in 2005. The following year, and in 2012, Adams received two Lead Awards in Germany for his fashion photography for a series of portraits of Mickey Rourke (2006), and a portrait of Daphne Guinness (2012). His first photographic book, ‘Exposed’, questioning what happens when people are exposed to celebrity 24/7, was published by Steidl in 2012.

Bryan Adams was inducted into the Royal Photographic Society in 2015 and in the same year he was approached to photograph the Big Issue vendors for a book. In 2017 the Royal Ontario Museum presented ‘Canadians’ by Bryan Adams to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary. This featured 28 portraits of well-known Canadians, including Michael Bublé, Linda Evangelista and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

‘Homeless’ was published in 2019 by Steidl.

All his proceeds from ‘Homeless’ exhibition at Atlas Gallery will be given by Bryan Adams to The Bryan Adams Foundation.** Atlas Gallery will donate a substantial percentage of the sale proceeds to The Foundation that, in turn, makes grants to The Big Issue Foundation for its work safeguarding the health, housing and finances of vendors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as helping to maintain positive relationships with support networks and to reduce social isolation among Big Issue vendors unable to work on the streets at this time. The exhibition is being held in cooperation with Crossover/Anke Degenhard.

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