For well-established restaurant Quaglino’s 21st birthday, music photographer Dean Chalkley is called upon to showcase his work throughout the stylish building.
Quaglino’s have a fresh outlook on how galleries can be set up, which is part of a recent trend of discovering different ways to view art. The use of a restaurant and bar makes it comfortable and relaxing to view the photographs. Even though I have the most expensive cocktail I’ve ever bought, it still makes for a tranquil Friday afternoon.
Dean Chalkley started his career taking inspiration from mod culture, misbehaving and fashion. This led him to working with underground tattoo conventions. Dean quickly started photographing the elements and inspirations that feed pop culture. He now is commissioned by the NME amongst other popular magazines.
A lot of his subjects are predominantly known for their personalities as well as their music. Characters like Amy Winehouse and Patti Smith are immortalised in his photos. Even though these artists are famous, Chalkley strays away from the media attention.
“I don’t try and shoot the band, I try to forget that. I try to think they’re people not a product,” he says. “I try to get them on a personal level which is important.”
In particular, his photo of Amy Winehouse has become quite iconic. “She was a very nice girl, very funny and we talked about music,” Dean says.
If you take into consideration the time in which these photos were shot, it gives a lot more depth than a simple portrait. For instance, Noel Gallagher was just about to release his first album after the split of Oasis. Chalkley uses the metaphor of stepping into the spotlight for the first time by using exactly that – a spotlight.
One stand-out photo for me is of the notorious Pete Doherty, a man who’s often had his photo taken in the most peculiar of situations. like scavenging a bin for a spare condom, is depicted here in a suit with his tongue in a skull. Chalkley tells us it was completely improvised at the NME awards where he happened to have some human remains handy to keep Doherty amused.
Artic Monkeys have even had a slice of the Chalkley factory after a shoot in America. Chalkley says they all got into a van one morning and drove until they found the perfect spot, a train track in a dusty old town which symbolises the band’s journey to breaking America.
As well as big stars, Dean has included a few lesser known artists for the collection. I Blame Coco and The Dog Bones were picked due to their energy and interesting personalities.
In all his photos there is a story beyond the picture and everything is there for a reason. Not only is the gallery simply a celebration of a restaurant’s birthday but is a celebration of an impressive portfolio too.
Dean Chalkely’s ’21’ ran from 24th March until 5th July at Quaglino’s.