Project Description

Pennie Smith is one of the UK’s most acclaimed rock photographers. She made one of the the most famous photographs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll – the cover image for London Calling by The Clash. Here we focus on her classic Clash covers, and some key Jam pieces. Pennie hardly ever exhibits her work, as she is still a full time working photographer.

The Clash

Pennie Smith had been photographing for NME when she first met The Clash in 1976.  She recalls ” They knew my work through NME. I think they decided  I was the photographer for them because I could do in pictures what they made in noise. ” She stayed with them throughout their US tour in 1979, and a book of her Clash photographs, The Clash Before and After, was published in 1980 by Eel Pie Publishing.  She is modest about her contribution:  ” I don’t think I created their image – I just added atmosphere and perhaps the setting to the image they already had “

London Calling (1979)

London Calling by Pennie Smith
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The classic London Calling album cover photograph. It is one of the most famous photographs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. It is not cheap, but sometimes the good stuff has to hurt a little.

The photograph shows Paul Simonon about to smash up his bass during a show at The Palladium, New York City on 21 September 1979. It is an acclaimed shot, receiving the ultimate accolade from Q Magazine by being voted the best rock and roll photograph of all time. Pennie had accompanied The Clash throughout their 1979 US tour, and very nearly didn’t attend this particular concert. In the end she chose to turn down the offer to go out with friends and ended up stage right at The Palladium. The band were used to getting a big response from their US audiences, but not on this night – The Palladium had fixed seating. Paul’s frustration turned to anger, and then he lost it completely. His watch stopped at 9.50pm. Later, when it was time to choose an image for the cover of London Calling, the band spent a long time pouring over hundreds of Pennie’s photographs from the tour. Joe Strummer saw this shot on the contact sheet and said “That one”.

Sandinista! (1980)

Sandinista! by Pennie Smith
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This is the Sandinista! album cover photograph. 

On this original photograph you can see the West Ham graffiti that was removed from the actual Sandinista! LP cover artwork. Pennie Smith photographed the group behind Kings Cross/ St Pancras Station in London. The group had recently finished shooting a video for ‘The Call Up’, and Mick Jones is still wearing the helmet he wore for the filming.

The Jam

 I am delighted that Pennie has agreed to offer some of her most important Jam/Paul Weller photographs to our clients.

Each photograph is made by hand in the darkroom from Pennie’s original negatives on 16 x 20 inch heavyweight silver gelatin paper, and signed on the front under the image area by Pennie to authenticate the work.

The Jam: In the street today

Early days—1977—and Pennie Smith captures The Jam in matching black suits, white shirts, black ties and black & white shoes. Three aliens from another time and place, dropped into a London street scene. Life goes on oblivious in the background, but something is starting….. and as a wise man once said: the kids want some action. Who can f****** blame them ?

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The Jam: Live and leaping

As a photographer you have to be in the right place at the right time. Then you need that blend of skill and luck. The result is this perfect composition. Paul Weller leans back and launches into one on his Rickenbacker. Bruce Foxton leaps so high that he reveals Rick Buckler on drums in the background. The best bit – look at how Bruce’s legs form into a perfect ‘A’, synching with the logo behind.

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The Jam: Tripod

I read somewhere that this is Paul Weller’s favourite photograph of The Jam. Maybe that’s because it is just him and Bruce — or maybe it is because it is a truly great image. We call it “tripod” because Bruce and Paul seem to have fused into a rock-solid three-legged entity. One thing you may not notice at first – see how the shadows form edgy geometric shapes on the floor. Taken in 1978, this photograph appeared on the front cover of NME on 4 November of that year, under the headline “Jam today”. 

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The Jam: Paul Weller recording Sound Affects

I love this 1980 photograph of Paul Weller taken at The Town House studios, during the recording of my favourite Jam album, Sounds Affects. It plays a nice visual trick on the viewer. If you start at the top you would be forgiven for thinking that the moon is shining down on an outdoor scene—and the corrugated sheets in the background seem to confirm that thought. Then, once you see the floorboards and microphones you realise your first impressions were wrong.

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The Jam: Paul Weller at the Funeral Pyre video shoot

Paul Weller in cream trousers and corduroy overcoat photographed by Pennie Smith at the video shoot for “Funeral Pyre”. The filming took place at Horsell Common, near Woking in 1981. 

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Paul Weller: Train Tracks

Every self respecting musician needs a train track portrait. Here’s Paul photographed behind Manor Studios, Oxford in 1995.

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Paul Weller: Sunlight

A dramatic portrait of Paul Weller by Pennie Smith, taken close to The Manor Studios, near Oxford, in 1995.

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