Project Description

Jake Chessum

British-born, New York-based photographer Jake Chessum’s portfolio includes Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams, David Bowie, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, Coldplay, The Beastie Boys, Beck and beyond. 

Jake grew up in Croydon, South London. He studied Graphic Design at St. Martins School Of Art, and started working as photographer straight out of college. Assignments for The Face, Arena, and an early ad campaign for Neutrogena featuring a 16 year old Kate Moss followed. By 1995 Jake was regularly flying the Atlantic on assignment for JFK Jrs’ George Magazine. In 1999 he upped sticks and moved permanently to New York, where he still lives with his wife and family. Alongside shooting commissioned portraits and advertising assignments, Jake has always been a dedicated street photographer. 

Scroll down to view a selection of jake Chessum’s limited edition photographs, which are available to purchase in a range of size options.

The limited editions

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse in laundrette – profile

Jake recalls the session: “I travelled from NYC to London in February 2004 to do a press shoot with Amy Winehouse. It was a classic February day: cold, wet, foggy and dark by about 4pm. We met at her flat and went to a few of her local haunts: a cafe, a launderette, Primrose Hill. The record company were very hands off and didn’t pressure us to do any particular set ups. We just went with the flow. She was really entertaining: funny, smart and cooly indiscreet. I am a huge jazz fan and I remember we talked about music, London and New York.

Her album, Frank and two singles had been released by this point and she was a little nervous about photo-shoots. At the cafe where I photographed her with the ketchup and sugar containers on an otherwise empty table, she talked about how she was hesitant about “dressing up” for photos and wearing much more make up than she normally would. I tried to reassure her that she looked really natural and that photo-shoots were really about marketing and not necessarily about who she really was. She really was all about the music.

In retrospect it’s easy to create a narrative or appear to have insight into somebody, but there’s a quiet and reflective quality to these images. I feel I was fortunate to have been commissioned to work with her at this early stage in her career and to have captured moments that preceded her worldwide fame. I only met her once, but to possess the images and to rediscover them every time I make a print is bizarrely significant, especially in light of what happened a few years later.”

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Amy Winehouse in laundrette – portrait
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Amy Winehouse in restaurant
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David Bowie

David Bowie

“I shot David Bowie at a house in Fulham in May 1995. I grew up on Bowie. My friend bought all his albums for £2.99 at Our Price records and taped them for me when we were fifteen, and we were stoked to see him live at the Milton Keynes Bowl in the summer of ’83. So when I got the call to shoot him for Tatler with some of his art collection there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity.

Armed with my collection of vinyl, books and posters for him to sign, I headed off to South West London. It was a terraced house and at the top of the stairs I could just see his head as he was sitting reading. I can still picture that moment. I was frozen with fear and anticipation. Bowie came down, we were introduced and he made us a cuppa.

We headed upstairs to shoot him with a couple of paintings and sculptures. When this was done, I asked if I could just grab a couple of portraits in the back garden. It was a lovely sunny day and I got one roll of 35mm and two rolls of 120 film, from which the shot here was taken.

He was disarmingly quiet and open, and explained he couldn’t stay in the bright sun because his pupil was frozen after a fight with his friend as a kid. Like I didn’t know the story back to front already.

What I like about these pictures is that they are totally unpretentious: He’s not styled, is not wearing make up or acting in any way. The simplicity is key. A few months later he was promoting his album “Outside” and had dyed his hair a shocking light brown and was wearing heavy eye make-up. This was just him as he looked every day.”

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Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones

“Sharon was a legend. Another amazing singer sadly no longer with us. I was fortunate to spend a day with her and her band, the Dap-Kings on an advertising shoot. I was fortunate that I could kind of combine what I wanted to do with what my client wanted. She was amazing…so charismatic and enthusiastic. To have her singing and dancing removed and to portray that in a way that was true to her was a real privilege.”

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Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg

“I photographed Snoop at Milk studios in LA. Everybody on the shoot was so excited to meet him. He has that kind of cachet and charisma. He didn’t disappoint—joking and smoking the whole time. At the end of the shoot he left the end of one of the many joints he had smoked on the floor of the studio. There was a stampede by the studio assistants to retrieve it. I am sure there was some pretty good stuff left in there.”

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Jay Z

Jay Z

“This was for Newsweek and shot at Milk Studios in November 2006. Jay Z had just returned from a trip to Africa. He was very jet-lagged, and we were told we would only have twenty minutes for the shoot. However, several trunks of clothing turned up which made me think maybe we’d get longer.

He definitely had some moments where the energy dropped, but in the end we were working for about three hours. This image was shot on the late and very lamented Polaroid 665, which gives a negative that can be printed from and has a grainless beauty.” 

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Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams
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Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams on balcony

“I shot this at an hotel in South Kensington in the summer of 2001. I don’t remember there being any entourage around Rob on this one. We shot in the hotel and ordered room service. Out of the blue, Geri Halliwell turned up to visit Rob. While were shooting out on the balcony she ate my sandwich.”

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Robbie Williams, sweater

“This was shot in and around Robbie’s flat in Notting Hill on a cloudy day in 1997. It was me, him and my assistant. The shoot was maybe an hour or two; a few rolls of film. Sometime later the record company picked the shoot up and used this image for the cover of the DVD release of “Angels”. Another shot from the same roll was used for the cover of his compilation album The Ego Has Landed. The images were plastered al over NYC just when I moved there in 1999. I bumped into Robbie at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in LA (so glamorous) and he bought me and my assistant breakfast which we ate sitting by the pool. Kiss were dining at an adjacent table. True story.”

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Coldplay

ColdPlay – cold

“Another shoot at Milk Studios, in NYC, on 11 February 2005. I remember because it was my birthday and they sang “Happy Birthday” to me. There were racks of suits for them to wear as I thought it would be cool to dress them up. Chris was last to arrive…and Guy, Jonny and Will were all trying on suits, but when Chris arrived he categorically stated “Jake, I am sure you are a really nice guy, but we are not wearing suits”. So that was that…pick your battles. The other things I had arranged were crappy office chairs and a load of disco balls. These they were happy to work with….bingo!”

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ColdPlay – play
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Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys

” This was from April 1994. I flew from London to shoot at Mike D’s backyard and around G-Son Studios, their recording studio in Atwater Village that was complete with basketball court and half-pipe and the offices of Grand Royal. The shoot was the day after they had made the iconic “Sabotage” video and props and fake moustaches were lying around the office. They messed around with golf clubs and various gardening props that were around the place. It was spontaneous and silly, but worked out great.”

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Beck

Beck

“This was late 1994, just after “Loser” was released. I met Beck at a car park in London. I had a huge brick phone that he played with.  He had cool sunglasses with a big crack in one lens. No publicist, no stylist, no grooming…those were the days!”

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Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne

“This was at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, NY. It was just me, Wayne and my tech. We shot a ton of film and digital. He gave 100% and was really funny and enthusiastic. He ran around the toilets, sailed in an inflatable dinghy in a massive puddle and walked around the beach area in bare feet with his trousers rolled up.”

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Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

“This was a brief and friendly shoot at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. Chris had recorded a song for the soundtrack fo the movie Machine Gun Preacher.”

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Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke

“This was taken at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia in May 2006—a cover shoot for the magazine Spin. I was told to only shoot colour, so I ignored that and shot Polaroid 665 B&W pos/neg film on a seamless background that we set up in the lobby. I put together this triptych and it ran in the magazine as a double page spread.”

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John Mayer

John Mayer

“Miami, Florida. January 2007. This was another Polaroid 665 shot. I miss that stuff. On assignment for Entertainment Weekly, we scouted the area around the hotel and found…a white wall! John was sadly delayed his publicist told us so we waited…and waited. The light was starting to fade, and we had a plane to catch to get back to New York when John finally showed up. I chatted to him and asked if everything was ok…concerned that he wasn’t delayed by anything serious. “Oh, no…I was just at the hotel pool,” he explained.”

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