"I was taking photographs at a pivotal time for black people in Britain, politically and culturally. Suddenly we weren’t coloured people any more – we were black. It was a question of pride and of self-definition."
Dennis Morris is a British-based artist who has used the camera to produce an in-depth body of work on extraordinary individuals. Morris started his career at an early age, he was 11 years old when one of his photographs was printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. A camera fanatic since the age of 8, Dennis was known around his East End neighbourhood as Mad Dennis, due to his preference for photography over football. After inadvertently stumbling across a particularly feisty demonstration by the PLO one Sunday, the sharp young Dennis took his film to a photo agency on Fleet Street who promptly sold it to the Daily Mirror for £16. Accustomed to raising money for films and camera parts by taking photos of christenings and birthday parties, Dennis was suddenly on to something; his hobby and all-consuming passion could be done for a living.
It was whilst bunking off school to wait for Bob Marley to arrive for soundcheck at the Speak Easy Club on Margaret Street, that Dennis's music photography career really began. Marley, quite taken with the young teenager who was waiting for him, invited Dennis to come along and take pictures on the remainder of the tour. Running home to Dalston, Dennis packed his bag and jumped on the bus. His photographs of Marley and The Wailers became famous the world over, appearing on the cover of Time Out and Melody Maker before Dennis had even turned 17.
Closely associated with music, Morris has created some of the most iconic and memorable images of Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols, as well as the Marianne Faithfull Broken English album cover. He has also captured the essence of the Sikh community of Southall, UK; the collection was subsequently bought by English Heritage. Morris also created the iconic Public Image Ltd logo and the band’s first two album sleeves, including the Metal Box.
Several books of his work have been published, including Bob Marley: A Rebel Life; The Bollocks, on the Sex Pistols; and Growing Up Black, a chronicle of Black Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.
His work is well recognized and has been exhibited internationally at the Today Art Museum, Beijing; Laforet Museum, Tokyo; Arles Photography Festival, France; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Tate Britain, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland.
His photographs are included in prestigious public and private collections, such as Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and have appeared in numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, Time, GQ, Vogue, W, and Frieze. His work is included in books such as Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Greil Marcus; Century by Bruce Bernard; and 100 Days of Active Resistance by Vivienne Westwood.