A SELECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHER LAWRENCE WATSON’S WORK WITH THE SMITHS IS PRESENTED IN THIS NEW BOOK FROM PUBLISHERS FORULI CODEX.
Watson’s fondness for the music of The Smiths and his understanding of Morrissey’s oh-so deliberate vanity – and his sense of humour – allowed the relationship between photographer and subject to blossom into a fruitful trusting one.
A photoshoot for an NME cover – and, in fact, the band’s last together – is taken outside a derelict betting shop in Salford which had once belonged to the father of actor Albert Finney.
It is absolutely Morrissey’s chosen framing device, perfectly trading on the notion of The Smiths as romantics hemmed in by circumstance; black-and-white kitchen sink lives dragged out on maudlin backstreets – where tough kids sometimes swallow nails; the all-week ache for gaudy fulfilment on a Saturday night to counter the “some day” mournings. A setting perhaps intrinsic for the music to best permeate the soul.
Having a similar effect is an image of the band as a tight unit – a gang – larking around outside Salford Lads Club. It’s not the image, though: the legendary photograph of the band in its pomp used for the inner sleeve of THE QUEEN IS DEAD was taken by Stephen Wright. Watson’s picture is from the same final session as the Albert Finney shot, so is actually rather poignant in that it encourages the thought of what might have been had communication between Morrissey and Marr not collapsed and The Smiths whimpered dramatically to a halt.
Ultimately, in Watson’s book Marr, Joyce and Rourke are reduced to bit part roles. All eyes, somewhat inevitably, are drawn to Morrissey.
The cover shot is a provocative pose with a gun, which seems vaguely absurd and uncharacteristic – as do pictures of him with a washing-up liquid bottle, though it’s a more likely weapon.
A contact sheet containing frames in which he plays with a cat pre-figures a humorous later session, and the sight of young Morrissey wrapped around his own grave, date of death obscured by faded stone, brings thoughts of his recent decline into artistic inertia.
Whether or not Morrissey will be heard from again as a creative force is debatable. Tepid reaction to his 25LIVE concert film – such a dreadfully careless non-Morrissey name – and the curious goings on surrounding the apparent publishing deal for his autobiography suggest life is putting the squeeze on him once more, and he may retreat even deeper into his bunker. Lawrence Watson’s collection of generally endearing pictures is a timely reminder of days of enthusiasm – days Morrissey worked carefully at constructing Morrissey and got it right.
Photographs by Lawrence Watson
Published by Foruli Codex