The softer side of a Stone: an interview with Bill Wyman


Our art correspondent Kevin Wilson chats to Rolling Stone Bill Wyman about his landmark photographic exhibition

Most icons of the music business are iconic for what they do best. A few superstars paddle in other ponds but rarely get remembered for their ‘second job’.

But Bill Wyman has come of age in the photographic world with his new exhibition Second Nature at Kenny Schachter/Rove in Hoxton Square. It rubber stamps Bill as one of the great creative photographic eyes.

I frequently get sent photographer’s portfolios and, yes there are some fine ‘bands on tour’ snaps, there are some fine scientific nature snaps, there are even some good portrait shots; but it’s quite rare to come away with a collection of disparate subjects spraying a feeling on you. Mr Wyman leaves you with mood.

We see a reflective calm introspective Mick Jagger, an antithesis of his public persona and a thoughtful, elfin, Jerry Hall magically etched with a softness worthy of a Dior ad campaign. We are given non-tokenistic insights that will endure for decades.

Photo of Mick Jagger taken by Bill Wyman

Mick in bus on the way to the Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto Canada. June 1975

Jerry Hall

Jerry Hall in a ‘dreamy mood’ in a hotel in Frankfurt, July 1982

It is much harder to capture the same serenity mid-way through a performance but that same mood flows through the image of John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker from side-stage in Saffron Walden Essex. March 1969

The exhibition flicks from sensitively frozen Stones to carefully captured nature images. That same feeling permeates his works like the words Bill Wyman through a stick of Blackpool rock.  

Bill Wyman Flooded land near Nijmegen, Holland in January 2011

Flooded land near Nijmegen, Holland in January 2011

A Damsel-fly resting on a branch over river in July 2009 by Bill Wyman

A Damsel-fly resting on a branch over river in July 2009

Chatting with Bill, his passion for archaeology shines out. It’s no surprise that Bill is creating history for future music archaeologists to uncover. Generations to come will see the importance of the sensitive documentation of some of our most important legends. Built indelibly in his DNA is the urge to record and he continues to religiously keep diaries alongside his photo archive.

The images in this great exhibition more than speak for themselves, but I thought I’d speak to Bill himself to garner further insight:

How did the other Stones respond to your photography in the early days?

They were just casually interested, none of us thought of it as important. My interest in it was personal.

Are there any moments that got away from the camera that you had wished you had captured? 

Probably hundreds over the years and you kick yourself each time it happens.

Do you have a preference for documenting people or nature? 

My preference at the moment leans more toward nature and landscapes, but people come into it as well when the moment presents itself

Did you realise at the time you were taking the earlier pictures of the band that you would be contributing to rock history?

Not in a thousand years. I took photos to illustrate my diaries that’s all. It was a personal thing.

Do you have a favourite picture in the exhibition?

I have many, otherwise they wouldn’t have been chosen for the exhibition. The side shot of Jerry Hall, the winter landscape in Sweden with the deer and the apple blossom.

What are you planning next ? 

I’m basically beginning to shoot random photos of London life, including taxi drivers, people sitting outside restaurants, and interesting moments I see with pedestrians.

Do you like being photographed ? 

When it’s a necessity but I do prefer to be behind the lens and always have.

When you look back at your pictures of the Stones is it exactly how you remember it?

I remember pretty much the moment of taking them and I get nostalgic.

Was it hard choosing the 40 prints for your portfolio? 

‘Very hard, so I left the final choices from a possible 300 or so with Kenny Schachter.

You capture great landscapes and extreme detail, does your creative eye ever switch off?

Only when I go to sleep or to the toilet. They are the only times I break off from work!

There aren’t many successful musicians who have time for a second career or hobby, let alone an ability to do it as well as you do. Which wins in your head music or photography, or do you play both in stereo? 

There are many facets to my life including music, photography, sport, archaeology, writing books, and researching into history – all of which, fortunately, I’ve had a lot of success with it so far and I hope it will continue.

No time for more questions as Bill is off on a 37 venue tour of the UK with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings – with camera in hand – naturally!


Second Nature, Photography by Bill Wyman, October 5 to November 30

KENNY SCHACHTER ROVE, Lincoln House, 33-34 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NN. Monday – Saturday 10am -6pm and by appointment 07525 039 582

Images are for sale individually (£1000-£6000) and fifty percent of the proceeds from sales of a portfolio of 40 will be donated to Outset Family, a philanthropic initiative dedicated to supporting art education programs.

All Photos strictly © 2011 Bill Wyman Archive (Bill Wyman / Ripple Productions Limited)

Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the Historical Royal Palaces, international corporations, to private individuals and collections worldwide.