On March 29, 2021, London’s Royal Albert Hall — the most iconic venue in one of the world’s great cities — will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the building’s official opening ceremony. Over the ensuing century and a half since Edward, Prince of Wales gave that night’s welcoming speech, the Hall has hosted countless acts across the entire spectrum of music. Many of those artists have been photographed by Christie Goodwin, whose breathtaking imagery decorates the dome-shaped arena and is now for sale on the Hall’s online store.
As part of the 150th anniversary preparations for 2021, Royal Albert Hall revamped its online shop and asked me if I would like to work with them to launch the Christie Goodwin Collection. I was honored, of course, and accepted the invitation with great pleasure. It’s a first for the Hall and a first for me, too.
What you see above is only the beginning. As we draw closer to the sesquicentennial, more and more of Christie’s work will be added to the collection and become available for purchase. Some of these shots are discussed in Christie’s recent in-house interview, during which she also reflected on an illustrious career that has seen her work at the Hall more than 200 times.
One of Christie’s music photography inspirations is Linda McCartney, who was at the forefront of what was a budding genre in the 1960s. Appropriately, a shot of legendary frontman Mick Jagger sprung to mind when Christie started reminiscing about her favorite images taken by the Linda, who used to work for Rolling Stone magazine.
Linda was there right at the beginning when music photography exploded. She did quite a few behind-the-scenes shoots for Rolling Stone Magazine, and she stayed away from the traditional posed or semi-posed shots. Instead, she was sort of a fly on the wall. Her pictures were intriguing, but there was also a sense of humor to them.
The one that jumps to mind now is the shot she took of Mick Jagger in 1966 in his hotel room. He’s at the window and looking around, with half his face hidden by the curtain. She allowed you to peek inside their world through her lens, but not in a static or posed way.
Christie — who, it should be noted, said she’d transport herself to 1966 for the Stones’ first Hall concert if she could go back in time and watch any performance given at the venue — can pinpoint exact shots of hers that were heavily influenced by Linda’s style. Below is an example; it’s the kind of image around which you can quickly craft a narrative and tell the story of what was just one of many memorable nights Christie’s spent at the Hall.
I do avoid static, posed or, dare I say, boring captures. In the Earth, Wind & Fire shot, for example, you see Verdine White shaking hands with fans. It’s a tricky capture because, where I was standing, I was squashed against the stage by eager fans all waving their arms over and against my head. I should wear a helmet when I work! But I like that shot because you see the fan clutching Verdine’s wrist and him gently pulling back so he doesn’t dive off the stage. I wonder why she had her hand wrapped around his wrist. What were her intentions?
You’ll never see Christie tugging on the arm of a performer while at Royal Albert Hall, partly because she doesn’t get starstruck by celebrities, but mainly due to the fact that she’s never been to the Hall as a fan. In 2008, the Londoner worked her first event at the venue and was overcome by its beauty and setup. If you’ve ever seen the famed mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” you’ll recall a scene where the titular band gets lost trying to find its way from the dressing rooms to the stage. Christie had a similar experience her first time navigating the Hall’s, well, halls. Confusing as it is, the layout gives the building its cozy feel.
If I say my first impression was overwhelming, that’s an understatement. I was in awe of how majestic and beautiful the Hall really is.
I also remember feeling very confused, as there are so many doors and entrances that are all connected by circular corridors on different levels around the building. I tried to make sense of it all but failed miserably and could never really find the door I needed to get where I wanted to go. All I remember from that first time is running around in circles.
But because of its circular shape, the building is very intimate. You’re in reach of the stage at all times.
Due to the variety of acts that grace the Hall’s main stage, no two shows are exactly alike and no two outfits utilize their surroundings the same way. Always one to deflect praise and discuss everything but herself, Christie holds a special affection for the shots that encapsulate all that concertgoers can soak in at Royal Albert Hall. These images are her favorites not because of what went into making them, but because of how the performers used the available space.
I like any picture where the beauty of the Hall is accentuated — like, for example, the organ shot during the Cat Empire show.
Lots of artists will come to Royal Albert Hall and hide the gorgeous and world-famous 9,999-pipe Henry Willis organ, known as the “the Voice of Jupiter,” behind their backdrop. Whenever I see that, my heart just sinks. Why perform at Royal Albert Hall and then hide its beauty? The Cat Empire made beautiful use of the organ, lighting it in their colors and even projecting their logo on the pipes.
It’s easy to see why Royal Albert Hall wanted Christie’s collection to go on sale on their website, with her mosaic of images covering nearly every musical genre. Since she’s shot more than 200 events at the Hall, I had to ask her what her favorite show to work was — though I wouldn’t have blamed her for skipping over the question. I also wouldn’t have taken umbrage if she picked a performance by one of her good friends, Ed Sheeran. But the thoughtful photographer had a different answer at the ready and, in true Christie Goodwin fashion, had a great story to go with her response. It’s an anecdote that tells you why her work is all over the Hall and why the Hall is all over her work.
My favorite performance was by Iggy Pop on May 13, 2016. That evening was a relentless energetic explosion — one of those experiences I’m sure no one who was there will ever forget. Before the show, I had been briefed that Iggy didn’t want to see any photographers during his performance, so I had to shoot from behind the curtains and remain invisible at all times. I did as I was told until he launched himself into the crowd and surfed through the Hall. For a split second, my conscience was fighting my instinct, but I decided to ignore all warnings and ran down the stairs until I reached the floor so I could capture Iggy laying on the crowd.
His body started coming my way, but I remained focused on the job. Then, Iggy was put back on his feet and basically stood right in front of me. I hid my cameras behind my back while he leaned over to hug me. I couldn’t possibly reciprocate the hug without revealing my cameras, so I frantically pulled away from him. He gave me this odd look and must’ve thought, ‘how strange, this fan doesn’t want a hug.’ He then hugged a fan next to me and continued so until he reached the stage. Meanwhile, I discreetly went back up the stairs, hid behind the curtain, and got back to work.
See more of Christie’s work at christiegoodwin.com.
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