You probably know him as the chart-topping musician who made hits like “Cuts Like a Knife,” “Run to You,” and “Summer of ‘69.” For a time, his was a ubiquitous presence on the radio.
But the fashion and media worlds know Bryan Adams as an innovative photographer whose work — for the likes of British Vogue, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview and Marie Claire — is simultaneously edgy and intimate.
The Canadian Renaissance man unveils some of his best images in his new book Exposed (Steidl, $88), with an accompanying exhibition that opens December 18 at the Goss-Michael Foundation before traveling on to London, Doha and Dusseldorf in 2013.
Adams says the idea of exploring photography as a profession didn’t occur to him until he started creating his own album cover images in the ’90s. From that point on, he explains, “I realized there were ways of creating imagery that perhaps other people wouldn’t be getting access to.
“I’d document my work in the studio and thought [those shots] would be more fun for my fans. I had no expectation. One thing leads to the next thing — from multiple photo sessions to creating a book, to creating an exhibition, to creating a fuss.”
Although Adams said he made some “terrible, embarrassing mistakes along the way,” his experimentation led to his own personal style. This self-portrait began as a lighting test in his London studio.
“Many images are obscure, and I’ve been going through my archives and thinking it was a shame if they got buried and never seen again,” Adams says of the genesis of Exposed.
“I started putting together a layout because I just wanted the work to be seen in one place.”
Pictured here: Victoria Beckham
Adams’ collaborations with Amy Winehouse began in 2007, when the late singer was about to release her platinum-selling Back to Black. This led to a long working relationship that included shoots for Fred Perry and Harper’s Bazaar.
“This shot became her album cover,” Adams says. “We styled her up, and she was up for it, saying ‘What do you want me to do next?’”
Capturing chanteuse Lana del Ray just after her critically reviled appearance on Saturday Night Live, Adams positioned her against a mirror in a reflective moment.
“When I look through the book, it becomes a document," he says. "Practically all the people in there are known for something or another, and some of them have already gone.”
For each session, Adams shows up with an idea of how the pictures will look. He says his work is “a combination of minds.”
“That’s one of the interesting things about photography,” he says. “There’s a huge team of people that go into these images.”
Pictured here: Lindsay Lohan
“I love Mick. He’s fantastic,” says Adams of his work with the legendary Rolling Stones frontman. Like most of his shoots, Adams prepared by “making sure I have my act together. Not to diminish my eye, but when it comes to creating pictures and art, I’m really grateful to the people I’ve worked with — the subjects.”
Adams approached this award-winning session with actor Mickey Rourke as a stranger, although a friend later reminded him the duo had hung out in Los Angeles over a decade before.
Despite being in the same industry, Adams says he has no prior relationship with most of his subjects, meeting them for the very first time on set.
The majority of Adams’ work was done for magazines, including his own Berlin-based fashion and art publication Zoo Magazine, which he says is “one of the most exciting things I’ve done.
Not to be confused with the British lad mag of the same name, Zoo was launched in 2003, and can be seen on the web at zoomagazine.com.
Pictured here: Ben Kingsley
Surprisingly, some of Adams’ colleagues don’t make the connection between the musician and the man with the camera standing in front of them. For example, after wrapping up an afternoon with Moby, the techno artist told his photographer, “You look a lot like the singer Bryan Adams.”
Pictured here: Billy Idol
Exposed runs through February 8, 2013, at the Goss-Michael Foundation.