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Remembering Michael Putland Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

25 November 2019

British rock photographer Michael Putland, who photographed "everyone from Abba to Zappa" while reportedly never taking a day off in the 1970s, passed away last week at the age of 72. He had been suffering from prostate cancer.

Putland was born in Harrow, just outside London in 1947, discovering photography at the age of 9 encouraged by his uncle. When he turned 16, he left school for a job in a London photography studio assisting Walter Curtin, a Time-Life photographer. When Curtin retired to Canada, Putland opened his own studio with a friend.

In 1971 he became the official photographer for Disc & Music Echo assigned to photograph Mick Jagger in London. The Stones hired him to photograph their European Tour 1973 in what was the first of a long-term relationship.

Putland moved to New York City where he worked from 1977 to 1984, photographing extensively for the major record labels including Capitol, WEA, Polygram, Columbia Records and A&M Records.

While there, he also launched Retna, an independent photo agency in which he was involved with for nearly 30 years before it was sold. Its assets include over 750,000 negatives and 250,000 vintage prints of celebrities and pop culture icons.

Reflecting on his career, Putland said, "It has been a fantastic ride through an incredible period of music history, which combined my two great loves music and photography. Little did I appreciate, when my Uncle Alan encouraged my photography back in the 1950s, that this would lead me to photographing nearly all of my heroes and thrilled to be still finding new ones. A great never-ending journey."

In his tribute to Putland in the British Journal of Photography, Getty's Matthew Butson, vice president of Getty Images Hulton Archive, wrote:

Michael innately understood that music is both an aural and visual experience and his pictures responded to the individual style of each artist he photographed, illustrating something of the music they collectively made through light, shade and color.

Butson also noted that Putland was a talented darkroom printer before noting, "There will be many in the photography business who will mourn Michael's passing but there will be many more again who will hugely miss the man himself -- unassuming, modest, always full of enthusiasm and a real passion for life."

Putland publish several photo books of his work including The Music I Saw, The Rolling Stones and Pleased to Meet You.

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