Tributes have been pouring out following the unfortunate passing of one of music's most loved rock photographers, Mick Hutson. He was renowned for photographing the likes of Nirvana, David Bowie, Ozzy Osbourne, Paul McCartney, AC/DC, Primal Scream, the Stones, Marilyn Manson, Lily Allen, Elton John, Aerosmith, Madonna and many, many more.
Hutson photographed the biggest names in music, with his work featured on a handful of official album releases, and having graced the front covers of prominent magazines including 80 covers shot for Metal Hammer magazine alone. It is with a heavy heart that we report on his passing, and remember Mick Hutson for the charming and kindhearted man that we knew him to be, having worked closely with plenty of our brands and editorial teams over the years. Let's talk about our memories of Mick.
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The relationship between photographers and journalists has always been a close bond, especially in the 80s. Hutson started his career working for legendary photographer David Redfern, leading to his first solo commission by Select magazine to go out on tour with U2. It wasn't all rock and roll glory from day one though, as Hutson previously worked tireless hours on the North Sea oil rigs.
Born in Newcastle in May 1965, he grew up in Aberdeen after moving there with family and took a job at the oil rigs once leaving school, following his father's footsteps, working 14-day stretches for over 12 hours a day. Hutson finally left the oil rigs to pursue a Master's degree in Photography and Film at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Mick became Metal Hammer’s go-to photographer, and Jamie Hibbard (one of Metal Hammer's former editors) recalls a time when Mick had a cover shoot with Nikki Sixx, Dimebag Darrell, and Ville Valo in the back of a stretch Hummer.
“I was sitting next to Mick for the whole shoot,” he says, “Nikki throwing champagne flutes at him, Dimebag roaring drunk having been ‘on it’ at Download all weekend, Ville amused and slightly bewildered to be in between the pair of them as they caused as much havoc as possible.
He continues, “All the champagne flutes smashed around Mick as he shot – he was laughing the whole time, fully into capturing the unfolding scene before him. The consummate pro.”, as reported by Scott Rowley on Louder.
“To me, Mick was a jovial, fun-loving buccaneer,” says Stuart Williams, MD of Music, Photo, and Design at Future Publishing, and former publisher of Mojo, Kerrang! and Q magazines. Every Glastonbury, Mick would take the aerial shot of the Glastonbury Festival site for Q magazine and Williams would drive him to the helipad through hordes of crowds at the festival. Long story short, Hutson would hang out of the helicopter while it had the port-side door removed so that the rear seats were exposed to the elements.
“At this point, I became the photographer's assistant,” says Stuart. “I accompanied Mick on this journey six or seven times, I think, and have two standout memories including the time he left his lens cap on the seat, and the helicopter banked and out it fell onto the unsuspecting crowd watching Amy Winehouse below. "
Mick Hutson on cameras
We had the opportunity to interview Mick Hutson back in 2010 for our Digital Camera World magazine, and he shared with us that, "Most people’s reaction to my job is ‘you lucky sod’. Well yes I am lucky and yes it’s a great life, but sometimes it’s also damn hard work. You have to be pretty resilient to cope with the traveling, the deadlines, and the rock star egos."
"The real secret of my photography, if there is one, is… charm," he says. "Charming the PRs into a few more minutes with the band, charming the artist to let me photograph them somewhere other than the hotel corridor, and charming the tour manager to let me stay that little bit longer in the photographers’ pit at a gig. It’s all about constant negotiation."
"Photography is all about control,” he told Digital Camera World, “whether it’s controlling the light or controlling the situation with your subjects. Never be scared of trying something new, or chucking the original commission out of the window if it’s not appropriate to the situation. Some of my best pictures have come from tearing the brief up.”
"I wasn’t always a photographer. I used to work on an oil rig in the middle of the North Sea, drilling for oil 12 hours a day, 14 days on, 14 days off," he told us. "But I decided to follow my instincts and study photography, film, and television. So to anyone thinking they can’t do what I do, well you can… just don’t think it’s going to be any easier than the job you do now. I can guarantee it won’t be!"
The advice Mick gave us 13 years ago is still just as important now...
"In the last few years, photography has changed significantly, not just with the rise of digital, but also with regard to copyright and restrictions of trade. There are fewer outlets and more photographers. So keep reinventing yourself, keep taking pictures and keep finding new ways for people to be able to look at them.
"Changing the rules – and breaking them in many cases – keeps the professional photographer fresh."
Mick's published work has been seen in virtually every newspaper and music magazine in the world, but despite his popularity, those who knew him said he was incredibly charming, down to earth, and kind-hearted, having previously auctioned off his photographs to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Mick Hutson sadly passed away last week, on Thursday, 1 June 2023, aged just 58. He is said to have been living in Brighton, most recently at the Marina, where he had a boat and shared several photos on his social media pages of the harbor. He also collaborated with local Brighton artist, The Postman, on graffiti works of his own images captured of music icons dotted around the areas of Brighton and Hove.
He will be missed by many.