“All the great photographs, they’re shot with love and respect for the artists. She’s the best, know what I mean.”Noel Gallagher
”She reveals you to yourself.”Nile Rogers
“Through the honesty of Jill’s work, we are brought closer to the frailty and humanity of celebrity.”Neville Brody, designer of The Face Magazine
Life in London began aged 11, when Jill moved with her family from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to London just in time for the start of the swinging sixties. An ardent teenage fan of the Beatles, Furmanovsky would often stand for hours outside Abbey Road Studios, but it was outside Paul McCartney’s house that she and her two friends got their chance. Taken on her Kodak Instamatic, Jill’s first rock shot was born!
In 1971 Jill enrolled at London’s Central School of Art and Design and the following year, whilst on a two-week block course in photography, she had a lucky break when she was offered a job as in-house photographer for premier rock venue, The Rainbow Theatre. From then on she shot live shots and features for the music press of the day of the 1970’s and 80’s, including NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Smash Hits and The Face.
Editorial and studio photography
Her first portrait assignment was in 1974, photographing a young Stevie Wonder for the Melody Maker when one of their regulars was ill. She soon began working with other music publications including Sounds, NME and Record Mirror documenting the shifting tides of music in the form of punk, new wave, ska and reggae with bands such as The Jam, The Clash, Blondie, Bob Marley, Gary Newman, Generation X, The Police, The Specials, Burning Spear, Madness, Joy Division, Dire Straits.
There was no brief from the editors other than to bring back good images, which gave us photographers an unprecedented amount of artistic freedom and paid dividends to both the publications and us.
With the launch of The Face and the changing nature of press shots for the industry, the 1980s saw Jill acquiring a studio and a new set of skills, photographing the stars of the new wave such as Boy George, Paul Weller/Style Council, Adam and The Ants, Wham, Japan, Fine Young Cannibals, Spandau Ballet, as well as emerging female stars such as Joan Armtrading, Kate Bush Siouxsie and the Banshees, Selector, and The Pretenders. Jill’s work has led to long-term working relationships with the likes of Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders and Oasis both of whom she directed videos for in the 1990s.
By nature, most serious musicians regarded photo-sessions as a necessary chore. this was all very well but it didn’t produce the eye-zinging images required by Smash Hits and The Face. My main technique with them was to work as quickly as possible, road-runner style. If they looked startled or even slightly upset when I announced the shoot was over, I knew I had probably accomplished the task.
Jill’s book The Moment: 25 Years of Rock Photography (1995) is a seminal work in the genre. Oasis – Was There Then: A Photographic Journey (1997) followed. The book Oasis at Knebworth (2021) was on the Sunday Times best seller list.
Jill has won many awards for her music photography including The Jane Bown Observer Portrait Award (1992) and ‘Woman of the Year’ for Music and Related Industries (1988). She was Artist in Residence for Abbey Road Studios in 2018 and a judge at the first Abbey Road Music Photographer Awards which supports younger photographers working with musicians.
Jill celebrated her 50th year photographing rock bands professionally in January 2022. Photographing the Invisible – her first major retrospective opened at Manchester Central Library in April 2023 and a documentary about her remarkable archive, The Invisible Photographer, has a provisional release date of Spring 2024.
Jill Furmanovsky is founder of the rock photography collective www.rockarchive.com which celebrates its 25th year in 2023. She continues as a jobbing photographer shooting concerts if given an Access All Areas pass (her obsession).