Why music photographer Sharon Latham’s world is blazing thanks to her new exhibition featuring Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds.

"The thing is with a candid shot, I think it's about capturing that moment"

What’s it like to go on tour with one of the world’s most famous musicians? Celebrated photographer Sharon Latham knows exactly what it’s like. Her new exhibition ‘A New World Blazing’ which presents an exclusive glimpse at life on the road with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds launched online last night at the prestigious Red House Originals gallery.

Music Editor Emma Harrison spoke to Sharon to learn how she started out in photography, what does it take to create an amazing shot, having a chin wag with Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper and what it’s really like to work with Noel Gallagher.

House of Coco

How was last night’s launch of your new exhibition ‘A New World Blazing’ in London?

Sharon Latham

It was far better than I ever anticipated, but it’s always difficult hearing other people praising you. I find that quite tough going when they say ‘Oh, this is great!’ and you’re like, is it? Really? Oh!

House of Coco

Please don’t be so critical. You work is amazing and I am a huge fan of Noel Gallagher. I’ve seen the prints showcased in the exhibition and they are absolutely amazing. You’ve worked with Noel for several years now, how did this exhibition come about? And why was now the best time to do it?

Sharon Latham

Well, we organised to do it in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. So, we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll hold off and we’ll wait and see what happens’.  We waited a year, then we waited a bit longer. And we thought well, rather than waiting even longer. We’ll put it all online. So, it’s all available online and it was wonderful to have Gibson involved who did the press launch with us, which was so much fun.

The original idea for the exhibition came from the fact that I’d done a book ‘Any Road Will Get Us There (If We Don’t Know Where We Are Going)’ with Noel in 2018. Noel said to me back in 2019, ‘Oh, we should do another book’ and I said to him ‘No, it’s too soon’.  He asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘let’s do an exhibition’. So that was that!

Then, very fortuitously, when I did put the book out in 2018, the wonderful Richard at Red House Gallery got in touch with me and said ‘If ever you decide to do an exhibition, I’d love to be involved’ and I’d saved his number and he stayed in touch. So, I thought, ‘You know what, let’s see what he’s all about’. Then I went up to Harrogate to meet him and he’s just a spectacularly clever, talented guy and that’s where it went from there. It’s taking three years to get to where it is now. It’s good. I’m happy with that!

House of Coco

Fantastic! You used to chat with Noel when you were the club photographer at Manchester City, and you and Noel had a chat about what you were intending to do next after leaving the club and you ended up going on tour with him. I love how you’re just making things happen. Can you tell me a bit more about that story?

Sharon Latham

Yeah! I’ve been blessed by the fact that I was employed as the first ever female Premier League club photographer and that was just the most epic 10 years of my life. I had so much fun! I’d already photographed Oasis back at Maine Road and the Etihad a long time before that. So, I’d met Noel and Liam before, but then when I started working at City, they were there every game.

As Noel was starting up the High Flying Birds, I’d see him at every game, so we were always bumping into each other. So, we became friends softly and quietly and then over the years, when we started winning trophies, I was sending him pictures of the trophies or pictures of him with players and things like that. Then when I said, ‘I’m leaving’, he replied, ‘But where will I get my pictures?!’ and I reassured him, ‘There will be a new photographer, it won’t be an issue’. Noel said, ‘Why are you leaving, you can’t leave!’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got other things to do. I don’t have to take pictures all the time!’ So, then he said, ‘What are you going to do though? To which I replied, ‘Well, it’s okay – I’ll come on tour with you! And he just went ‘Okay!’

So, that was it and in 2016, I covered a few of his festivals that he was doing when I first left City and that was that. I got called back to do most of the other tours, which has been great, immense, and hard work, but great fun!

House of Coco

How has it been working with Richard McTague at Red House Gallery and how did you enjoy working on your first major solo exhibition?

Sharon Latham

He’s the nicest man on the planet. I can’t sing his praises enough, he’s exceptional at what he does. None of this would have been made possible without him and his skills. He’s got a great team around him as well.

I did a couple of exhibitions at City, but they were all sort of in house and were mainly for community projects to raise money for community projects. This is my first major solo exhibition independently like this and it’s been scary, but amazingly great!

House of Coco

So, there’s 40 pieces in the exhibition including 12 of which are exclusive limited-edition prints that have been signed by yourself and Noel. Do you have a favourite piece from the exhibition? Or is it quite hard to kind of make that choice?

Sharon Latham

I do get asked that a lot, but I think I’ve got a couple of favourites. One of them being the ‘Home’ picture, which is the Manchester Arena picture, with Noel in the bottom left hand corner and then there’s the whole of the arena – it’s just an epic picture of the audience. That view isn’t seen all the time because people are always looking at the stage and looking at the artist.

It was the first time back there after the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert. So, it was quite emotional for me. I was sat on the stage and I remember panning around, taking the shot and actually getting quite upset. The atmosphere in there was incredible that night as well.

When I went look through the pictures, I spotted this one and it just emoted the situation. So, that’s one of my favourites and it’s also got my daughter in it as well!

There’s also a couple of really big acrylic ones that we’ve done that are like a metre high. They are silhouettes of Noel in orange and blue with his guitar up. You can’t see Noel, but you still know it’s him – it’s purely his silhouette and profile. They’re huge, but they’re so beautiful. I like those two as well. But, it’s difficult because there’s so many, but there are certain ones that do spark a little bit of emotion for me!

House of Coco

Was it quite hard to pick the 40 images for the exhibition as you must have hundreds and hundreds to choose from? What was that selection process like?

Sharon Latham

Yeah! Noel helped; he was involved in the process. I sent him a selection of images and he came back and said, ‘I liked these ones, but why don’t we put a few more of behind the scenes in there?’

He’s been involved with the selection process which is great. It makes it easier because sometimes you can sit there, and you just don’t know which one to pick.  You get a bit blind to it.

House of Coco

That’s great. You have got a really lovely relationship with Noel and actually seem like similar characters. What’s he like to work with both on this particular project, the book, and as his photographer?

Sharon Latham

He’s a consummate professional. And I say this all the time, he really is a consummate professional. And you know, you can’t deceive him in any way, shape, or form. I’ve never had any issues with him. We just got on very, very well. I think the banter element works as well as I’m quite good at bantering, as is he.  I find him one of the kindest and most interesting people I’ve ever met.

House of Coco

Yeah, he’s also incredibly smart. He’s sharp and totally on it!

Sharon Latham

He’s really very professional, very on the ball and doesn’t suffer fools gladly as well, which I’m one of those people. So yeah, you are right, there is a quite a few similarities! Plus, the Man City and the football element.

House of Coco

Going back to the football, when it comes to football and gig photography, it’s all live and it’s all about the action as well capturing those special moments. Does your approach to music and football photography differ?

Sharon Latham

Yeah, ultimately, if you think about capturing sports action itself, that’s fast moving, the light changes, even though you’re outside. With gigs, it’s better lighting, but a lot of the time, the light changes due to the movements.

The similarities are there, but then, by the same vein, it’s a different set of lenses completely when it comes to the technical side of it. When you look at the behind-the-scenes shots as well, I used to capture a lot of behind-the-scenes action at Man City, and that was purely for the fans.

I would think as a fan, what I would want to see and what would I want to know – what boots do they use and how do they put those boots on? I would do behind the scenes stuff with some of my favourite players. So, I really made sure that that was in my head before I went there and I also do the same with music.

I think as a fan I would want to know what Noel drank before he went on stage. And I’d want a picture of him warming up and all the rest of it. So, I always have that element of thought in the mind. And that’s where I’ll try and get unusual angles of the stage. I’ll be hidden behind the drum kit and Noel will turn around and forget sometimes that I am there and he will stick his tongue out!

House of Coco

Fantastic! I like all the candid shots when he’s a little bit unaware. You have been on several tours now. Has your approach to photography changed much and how do the earlier tours compare to the most recent NGHFB tours?

Sharon Latham

When you first start, you have to make sure that people learn to trust you and realise that you’re not there to take any bad pictures or anything. So, there’s a trust element early on, but once that trust is done, you’re settled in with the band and you’re settled in with people – you can just literally sit back and get on with what you’re doing. They don’t even question you being in certain situations and you are given Access All Areas which is great. I love how Noel’s music has changed.

I love the different development of the music as it’s gone on and I love the fact that Noel is expressing his music that way now as well. I enjoy all of it. I really do. I think you can see the progression of his music and it’s what he wants to do and the sheer fact that it’s what he wants to do and he’s enjoying it. I think that comes across clearly as well.

House of Coco

I agree. I have loved seeing Noel’s progression musically in the last 10 years or so. I have seen him live several times and it’s always such a great show! Do you have any standout memories from like either touring or other shoots?

Sharon Latham

There’s so many, so many! From rocking up to the Joshua Tree to shoot a video in the middle of LA, with trees growing underground upside down and not even knowing where we’re going to shoot to shooting stuff in a bizarre location in New Orleans that had like a spaceship-esque thing in the back garden, to shooting some gigs that were in the most beautiful venues and at the atmospheric gigs like the London Palladium was just an unreal gig!

And then you are walking into unexpected situations where you’ve got Bradley Cooper in the dressing room…

House of Coco

To be fair, it’s pretty unexpected to have Bradley Cooper in a dressing room!

Sharon Latham

You know, there was an after-show thing we did in LA and we were all in this big backstage dressing room area. Noel had invited a lot of people over and they have all come down, just chilled. I looked across the room and on this couch. And I just went ‘Oh, that guy’s the double of Bradley Cooper!’ and Noel went ‘That’s Bradders!’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t stand and talk to Bradley Cooper!’

Bradley Cooper stood up and he was so lovely. And I turned around to Noel and I was like ‘What do I say?!’ And he (Bradley) was just a sweetie. And I spent 20 minutes talking to him!

I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities and you meet a lot of celebrities and go, ‘Oh, you’re not as tall as I thought!’ He is really tall, because I’m six foot one, but he was really tall!

House of Coco

It sounds like you’ve met some amazing people. Do you have anyone in particular that you would like to meet and work with?

Sharon Latham

Yeah! I’ve got a list. I’ve got a wish list that gets added to on a regular basis. I’ve got a lot of actors that I’d like to work with and shoot, I’ve got a project in mind that I’d like to take somewhere and get someone to help me get it funded which features a lot of actors in different situations, shall we say?

That’s something on the back burner I’m thinking about. But I’d love to shoot Mads Mikkelsen. I would absolutely, he’s just one of the most incredible characters, face wise. I think he’s got a beautiful face. I’d love to shoot him. Also, Elton John! Yeah! I was supposed to shoot him last year. I really missed out on that. I’d love to do some stuff with Paul McCartney as well. I could have done that at Glastonbury.  There is there is a long list! Tom Hardy’s on there as well. I just think there’s a shoot I’ve got in mind for Tom Hardy that would blow people away if I can do it.

House of Coco
It’s so interesting how you can kind of look at a person and envisage a picture or set up in mind. How did you get into photography in the first place? What inspired you to pick up the camera?

Sharon Latham

My dad died when I was eight and he was an amateur photographer, and I inherited his camera. And that was that! I’ve never not taken pictures since.  I’ve been taking photographs since I was eight years old. I had this old Russian camera, and it went everywhere with me. Then as I got older, and I’ve gone through life and had children, I have carried on with photography throughout my life.

My cameras have always been my source of comfort, my source of relaxation, my source of entertainment, my hobby! Never, ever in a million years would I believe I could ever make a living out of it or be sat here in a London Gibson’s studio with an exhibition of 40 photographs.

Being a professional photographer happened later in life, but I have been a photographer for all of my life.

House of Coco

That’s incredible. What do you think makes a great shot?

Sharon Latham

The thing is with a candid shot, I think it’s about capturing that moment, but with a set up shot it’s all about making sure that you have exactly in mind what you want from that image. A set up shot, and a candid shot are two completely different things. With a candid shot or a live shot, you’ve got to really be on your toes and make sure that you’re there at every point you can be.

I even have a set of images in my head before a gig and after a gig of what I want. Whether they happen and they don’t always, but I know how and what I want to get from them. That’s what I want them to be and so you have to sit down and wait and hope that it happens in front of you.

House of Coco

A lot of our readers are budding photographers, have you got any tips for them how they improve their skills please?

Sharon Latham

I get emails and messages about this on a daily basis. I absolutely love it when youngsters and the older generation get into photography and they ask, ‘What would you recommend?’ My biggest recommendation is to take photos! Learn how to take a photo with a camera that you’ve got, or even on your phones and then take lots of pictures of lots and lots of different things.

Over time, you’ll work out what you like to photograph because some people like photographing buildings, some people like photographing people. Some people like photographing landscapes, and landscapes are not for me. There’s such a massive realm of photography, you’ve got to hone in on what you like to do and the only way to do that is to literally go out and take shed loads of pictures.

For me, I think it’s 80% of your personality (and your own style) and then the other 20% is the technical knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, you need to know your camera, you need to know how to work a digital or a SLR camera, but there’s got to be you and your personality, and that will then come across any photographs.

House of Coco

What inspires you creatively?

Sharon Latham

For me, inspiration comes in different avenues. If you’ve been booked for a job to do something, you end up getting inspired by reading about that individual or finding out more about them. So, it depends on what I’m working on. I always love covering music stuff because it’s an eclectic mix of whatever you do. You could be doing the Arctic Monkeys on a Monday then doing Taylor Swift or Elton John. I like the eclectic-ness of it all, so inspiration comes from what I’m working on.

House of Coco

With the ongoing pandemic putting live shows on hold once again, this is clearly impacting on your work.

Sharon Latham

It’s been a horrendous 18 months because I lost all my work. I tend to go to a lot of the film festivals as well, and the red-carpet events, so they’ve all gone! I have also got a travel app – so that’s screwed as you would expect!

Yeah, it’s been really hard work. I’ve got a couple of things on the back burner and I if can get somebody to fund it, it would be absolutely spectacular. I’ve just got to keep plugging and doing what I do. My skills still there and they’re not going anywhere.

I have a couple of projects that I want to do. There’s one project for an exhibition that I’ve got in mind, which is the one featuring celebrities and then there’s another one I’ve got in mind that is all about raising awareness of male suicide.

House of Coco

In terms of the current exhibition, how long is it online for and do you have any other plans for it?

Sharon Latham

It’s online indefinitely at the moment and then we’ve got plans to physically take it out on the road again, when we can do so!

Noel’s latest album ‘Back The Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011-2021)’ is out now.

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