Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards reveals Icon Award winner

Abbey Road Studios announces Eric Johnson as winner of Icon Award at MPA's 2022
Biggie Smalls (Image credit: Eric Johnson)

Billed as the first-ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography, Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022 has today confirmed that US photographer Eric Johnson will be the recipient of the very first ‘Icon’ award.

Over the span of his 30-year career Johnson has shot with some of the most iconic artists including Missy Elliott, Biggie Smalls, Lady Gaga, Shygirl and Doja Cat.

• Check out these tips for photographing live music 

Abbey Road Studios announced in February that it was launching not only its first ever photography competition, but in addition the first ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography. The MPA awardshas undoubted significance and industry prestige, having been established by the world’s most celebrated recording studio and also co-founded with renowned photographer, Rankin.

In association with Hennessy, the MPA's exist to honor the most unforgettable music moments of 2021, as well as the talented music photographers who captured them. The MPA's also coincide with Abbey Road Studios' 90th anniversary, and entries submitted for the first ever MPA's have to be strictly captured in 2021, with images taken this year eligible for next year's 2023 competition.

Doja Cat (Image credit: Eric Johnson)

Eric Johnson has had an extensive career in music photography with work published in the likes of Vogue, Dazed & Confused, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. He was raised in Newark, New Jersey, though is now based in New York City and has photographed the likes of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather, though he is best known for his work documenting the US music culture of the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

Johnson's photos of Biggie Smalls, Nas, Missy Elliott and Aaliyah defined an entire era of US music culture and photography. His more recent works with luminaries including Doja Cat and Shygirl, who is also a judge of this year's MPA's, places him at the heart of contemporary music culture in 2022. 

A headshot of Eric Johnson, Icon Award winner (Image credit: Abbey Road Studios)

"It’s super surreal being the first recipient of the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography ICON Award" says Johnson on learning of his award win, "I’m super low-key by nature and through all of these years it never dawned on me that after taking all of these pics that ultimately it would all come back to me. That people would be curious about me. I kinda knew that my photos would stand the test of time but being considered an ICON wasn’t anything I really thought about. Wow!!! I’m into it."

Abbey Road’s Managing Director and MPA judge, Isabel Garvey, shares that: “The judging panel wanted the recipient of our first MPAs ‘Icon Award’ to be a photographer whose impact and contribution to the art of music photography has been pronounced and unparalleled and we have no doubt that Eric meets these criteria...We’re delighted that Eric has accepted the award as his work throughout his career to date has been some of the most vital and memorable in music photography.”

ShyGirl (Image credit: Eric Johnson)

Alongside the open categories: Studio, Live, Championing Scenes and Undiscovered Photographer of the Year (for which entries are now closed), there are four additional invited category awards, with the winners nominated and selected by the judging panel. These invited categories are: Ico, Portrait, Editorial and Artist at Work.

Legendary music photographer and Rockarchive founder, Jill Furmanovsky, joins Rankin, Isabel and Shygirl on this year's judging panel. In addition, Rolling Stone’s Deputy Photo Director and photographer Sacha Lecca, and American photographer and director Dana Scruggs also join the MPAs panel. Dana's incredible career highlights her as the first black person to photograph the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Aaliyah (Image credit: Eric Johnson)

The Championing Scenes open category is guest judged by Abbey Road Studio's own photographer-in-residence, Simon Wheatley. This open category award aims to explore the important role that music plays as a catalyst for progressive culture and communities, and there's no one better than Wheatley to offer expertise, known as The Don't Call Me Urban! The Time of Grime photographer. 

The winners of the first Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards competition will be unveiled and celebrated at an official ceremony on 14 May 2022 at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, England. We can't wait to see the results!

• Read more:

Best camera settings for live music photography
Interview: Music photographer Jennifer McCord on creating powerful images
Rankin to judge inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards
Legendary album covers on display in 'For the Record'

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.