Photographer Gered Mankowitz Shares How He Came To Shoot The Mega-stars

In today’s world there is a ‘no holes barred’ attitude to celebrity. Thanks to social media we needn’t wait for hours outside hotels in the rain, or queue for tickets or pray for some seedy news in the press to keep up-to-date with our favourite artists. We are only ever a click away from seeing them relaxing with their cat, rolling around affectionately with their children and hanging out at glamorous city haunts. But when Gered Mankowitz first starting photographing the Rolling Stones in the 60’s there was none of that – our biggest visual insight into the worlds of our idols was their album sleeve and other official imagery.

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards backstage USA 1965
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards backstage USA 1965

Brian Jones, Keith Richards & Charlie Watts backstage London Pal
Brian Jones, Keith Richards & Charlie Watts backstage London Palladium 1967

Mankowitz first shot the band at his central London studio in early 1965 and continued to work with them for years after. He built up an arsenal of snaps capturing the gritty daily life of the sought-after megastars, candid images of backstage drinks and dressing room cigarettes.

The full volume of mankowitz’s work has never been seen in its entirety but pieced together offers a rare, and raw, ‘fly-on-the-wall’ experience for fans old and new. His exhibition, Off The Hook, will take visitors on a glamorous journey wrought with emotion, of off-guard smiles and late-night recording sessions.


We caught up with the photographer himself to find out how the photos came about and why they are so important.

The Plus: How do you think photography helped shape the image of the Stones?
Gered Mankowitz:
Photography was crucial to the image of any band in the 60s because of the limited media available for fans to see their favourite artists. Consequently, album sleeves, sheet music and other “official” imagery was incredibly important and was the primary reason I wanted to work with the band. At the time I believe that the band’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham thought that my youth and relative inexperience would bring a naturalness and a grittiness to the band which he felt was appropriate for the time.

Keith Richards RCA Studios Hollywood 1965
Keith Richards RCA Studios Hollywood 1965

TP: How did this exhibition come about? What is your favourite image in the exhibition? How was the process of curating photographs for the exhibition and book?
I have worked for several years with Guy White the owner of Snap Gallery and this exhibition has been planned for many months. Choosing a favourite is tricky as I we have selected such a strong set of images, but I love the piece we have called The Cross, which is a group of six prints based on some passport photos I took at the end of my first shoot.

Mick Jagger RCA Studios Hollyood USA December 1965
Mick Jagger RCA Studios Hollywood USA December 1965

TP: As subjects, what were the Stones like to shoot? What was it like being on tour with them?
The band were terrific to work with from the outset – they seemed very comfortable with me and took my minimal directions very well. They always looked great in front of the camera! Touring America at the end of 65 was an amazing adventure, the full Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll experience interspersed with long periods of boredom and travelling. I loved it but never wanted to do it again…


TP: What do you think it was that made the band so charismatic and successful?
Talent, determination and natural charisma, plus great timing and a visionary manager!

TP: Are you still in touch with any of the band members? What do they think of the photographs?
I am not in direct touch with the band, but I am sure that they love my work!

Mick Jagger RCA studios Hollywood USA December 1965

TP: What are the differences in shooting fashion vs music subjects?
It is a completely different business really and because I never had ambitions to be a fashion photographer, I’m not sure that I am in a position to expand.

TP: Who in the music industry would you like to shoot next?
I have just shot a great session with a marvellous American blues guitarist and singer called Doyle Bramhall II for his new album.

The Rolling Stones on Primrose Hill London 1966
The Rolling Stones on Primrose Hill London 1966

Keith at Home 1966

Keith Richards at home 1966
Keith Richards at home 1966

Keith Richards "Humingbird" RCA Studios, Hollywood CA. 1965
The Rolling Stones - Out Of Our Heads sleeve London 1965
The Rolling Stones - Ormond Yard London 1965
The Rolling Stones Mason's Yard studio London 1965
The exhibition of Mankowitz’s photographs, Off The Hook: The Rolling Stones by Gered Mankowitz, run from 1 April until 28 May 2016 at the Snap Galleries in Picadilly, London.
Backstage: The Rolling Stones is published in June by Ormond Yard Press