❉ Ange Chan reports back from the opening night of the post-punk photographer’s exhibition, running until 8 December.
“The 1980s was the decade for experimentation in music, fashion and style and Ashworth knew how to capture those elements and bring them together in one beautifully presented image.”
London in the late Seventies and Eighties was a time of counter-culture and was also a creative-rich playground for those with an abundance of talent from Colleges like St Martins. There was also a plethora of cheaply available warehouse space which enabled those creatives to undertake their work in large spaces for a small fee.
Peter Ashworth was one such creative. He had been public school-educated and originally possessed aspirations to become an architect. However, a change of mind meant that instead, he chose to pursue his passion and studied at the London College of Printing, during which time he learnt about the graphical element of images, subtle gesture, perception and the Science behind the Art became his focus. He learnt how to use light in his carefully constructed images and how to organise and plan a photo session. During those early days there were many collaborations with fellow creatives, however milliner Stephen Jones became the most influential, and taught Ashworth how to commission posters, hire bands and gave him some useful contacts in the music industry.
After graduating, Ashworth got an early commission from the guys behind London’s emerging New Romantic scene at the infamous Blitz Club; Steve Strange and Rusty Egan, and the cover of Visage’s first self-named album was one of his first commissions. The Blitz was London’s playground for the beautiful people, many of whom became the subjects of Ashworth’s photographs. The press nicknamed the club’s attendees as ‘peacock pretenders’ but they had the attitude, charisma and character along with the looks which were all ingredients needed, along with Ashworth’s talents, to produce such stunning and iconic artworks.
Jones, who was then starting out as a hat designer asked Ashworth to produce his first shop card, advertising Jones’ millinery services. Alex McDowell who had just set up his record design company Rocking Russians, was another early commission. Word was starting to spread that an Ashworth photograph was more than just a photograph; it was a carefully staged, beautifully lit piece of artwork, preserved forevermore as a point in time, representing photographic evidence of pop culture history.
From that point onwards, life quickly became very busy for Ashworth and word was spreading that he was the photographer of choice for many of the cool acts of the day including Soft Cell, Adam and the Ants, Eurythmics and Dead or Alive to name but a select few.
The 1980s was the decade for experimentation in music, fashion and style and Ashworth knew how to capture those elements and bring them together in one beautifully presented image. He worked with many of the must have style bibles of the day including The Face and Smash Hits and was even mentioned in Mari Wilson’s Just What I Always Wanted song, immortalising the man and his work in lyrical content. Ashworth was also the photographer behind a number of Soft Cell and David Ball record covers including Bedsitter, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret and David Ball’s solo album, In Strict Tempo with its image artistically designed by Marc Almond. These three images are included as part of the Mavericks exhibition and for me personally, it was amazing to see the historical, original artworks.
Throughout his long and varied career Ashworth has enjoyed many successes and has worked with a significant number of cutting edge musicians, immortalising them in the most beautiful way through one of his iconic pieces of artwork. A selection of these can be viewed for the first time in London at the Lever Gallery. The images have been curated by DuoVision, aka respected artistic creatives James Lawler and Martin Green following on from the success of the exhibition in their Liverpool gallery.
The collection is available to view from now until 8th December 2018 and is open from Tuesday – Sunday, 12 – 5pm. I’d strongly recommend a viewing. Your soul will thank me for it!
❉ Twitter: https://twitter.com/peterashworth
❉ ‘Ange Chan is a novelist and poet. Her latest collection of poetry ‘Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak’ was published in October 2017 and is available from Amazon. Her third novel, Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots is a work in progress.