Rock star life through a lens
Despite snapping famous bands including McFly and N-Dubz, music photographer Dean Sherwood hasn’t forgotten his Grimsby roots. KATY FORRESTER turns the tables and puts him in the spotlight...
ARMED with a camera and a passion for music photography, Grimsby's Dean Sherwood, 31, briefly studied the art before getting stuck into building a portfolio.
He photographed countless local bands and stayed awake until the wee hours editing and perfecting his images.
With an ultimate goal of becoming respected within the entertainment industry, he contacted local promoters, read about photography, scoured the web for images and tips and generally submerged himself, to the point of being somewhat obsessed with getting the best snaps possible.
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He says the drive to climb the career ladder really began when he was given bigger opportunities to tour with the likes of Feeder, Ian Brown and The Charlatans.
Dean said: "My average working day was starting at about 10am and ending at about 3am, and every now and then I'd do a bit of overtime and stay up till 4am or 5am. It was at this point that the arrival of cheques was a delightful new feature to my career.
"When I started out, I would shoot bands for free. It's the only way to build a portfolio.
"I don't think I really got a 'break' as most people phrase it. I worked tirelessly. I was quite fiercely focused on what I wanted to do.
"I am obsessed with photography 24/7, there's no break from it for me, and if there was I wouldn't know what to do with myself."
Dean says he focuses fully on getting the best photos for each client. He said: "As a band's photographer you get access to shoot the whole show, no 'three songs and you're out' rubbish. In fact, if someone was to hire me and say I only had access to shoot three songs, they could find someone else to do it.
"With that rule, you don't get enough time to get the shots you or they want and need."
He said he used to spend hours on the internet finding contacts to e-mail his work to, with often only one in 50 people replying.
"But that one that I got each time helped me add another few photos to my portfolio and it gave me the chance to show another client that I could produce the quality they needed," he said.
"Each time I got hired, I'd meet new people – people who you just can't get e-mail addresses for from the web – like support acts' management and PR agents, and I'd be hired to do other things.
"One thing just led to another. I have been in the right place at the right time quite a lot, but I guess the hard work helps that happen more often."
Dean said when McFly first contacted him to photograph them, in 2008, he was already booked that night to shoot Cascada in Leeds, so he turned them down.
But he quickly realised he'd made the wrong decision and within minutes he called them back up and said he could do it.
What was at first a few shots they needed to send out to the press turned into shooting most of the tour, and his photographs were used to produce marketing materials and merchandise.
A few weeks after the tour had finished, McFly's PR agency called him to say they'd started working with a new band that had just shot to number one in the charts.
They asked him to photograph them at an after-show party in Portsmouth.
Dean said: "Obviously overly excited, I just said 'yes, of course I can', without thinking I'm six hours away and you want me there in two hours. So, I stuttered a bit and then said 'I can't, I'm too far away, I can't get there in time'."
Instead, he put them in contact with a fellow music photographer who went along to shoot the band: "I'm not sure if many photographers would do the same or not.
"Nonetheless, I think it's important to look after each client you have as a photographer. If they come to you with a problem, you should solve it for them if you can.
"So when I got the call to shoot N-Dubz's Love.Live.Life Arena Tour it actually took me a while to realise and remember they were the band I couldn't photograph in Portsmouth, and now they'd come back to me again. So my good deed of passing them on to another photographer was eventually rewarded.
"I've been on tours purely to produce images for their archives and just to update the band's web galleries.
"But almost always the photos are used for other things as well, so you have to be really careful with how you sell them and make sure your invoicing is clear about what rights they have for the photographs.
"I mostly use a Canon 5DMKII and a Holga CFN, I like a camera with soul. DSLRs are just machines.
"Both McFly and N-Dubz are producing merchandise I'm heavily involved with from the recent tours, so its really interesting working with their designers and extra teams and seeing your work go on sale.
"I'm also talking to Tom Fletcher from McFly on a daily basis at the minute about a special project we're working on.
"When I was photographing McFly on their Up Close: This Time It's Personal tour, myself and my girlfriend, Becky, walked into the Hammersmith Apollo front entrance and it was quite surreal.
"Everywhere I looked, there was a T-shirt, poster, DVD or book with my work on it.
"It's at those moments when you think back to the work that you've done that preceded and led to this very moment – the shoots in grotty back street venues where you'd be covered in beer, all the late nights editing photos of local bands you were never paid to shoot. Not that I didn't enjoy it all, because of course I did."
Now Dean has gone from pubs to arenas, often sporting an access-all- areas pass, he has got to know some of the world's biggest stars.
"Fazer from N-Dubz is a real gentleman, he's very kind and likes to sit with my camera flicking though the photos," he said.
"Tulisa is a girl, what more can I say? 'No photos without makeup and hair done' was my first conversation with her – she laid the photo rules down hard from the start!
"When I was sat backstage with Dappy and Fazer at The O2, Dappy turned to me and said, 'You're one of us now bruv. I like you, I like your work, you're a talented man. But if you go blabbing anything we say to the press, I'll come and find you Dean'.
"Then he laughed, and so did I, but I knew he probably meant it."
Dean said working with McFly is also nothing but a great pleasure: "From their management, right through to their security, the band is not just made up of talented musicians, they are quite charming, infectious characters as well, and they are very easy to work with."
It seems Tom from the group has the same respect for Dean. He said: "Mr Sherwood is not only a master of his craft, but anyone who has the ability to take our horribly sweaty, awful, gurning faces and transform them into kick-ass works of art must be a miracle-worker.
"We are the geeky Clark Kent and his camera is the phone booth in which we morph into Superman."
Dappy from N-Dubz said: "Dean has some serious skills with that camera. The documentary of our work through his eye demands my respect. Big up Mr Sherwood."
In coming months, Dean says he has a few new projects in the pipeline and he's also hoping to release photography books, exhibit his work and continue touring with bands.
He'll be working with Dappy and Tinchy Stryder later this year, along with X Factor boyband One Direction, plus sticking to his roots with commercial work closer to home.
He said: "If you're not obsessed with photography, and living it all day every day, it's not for you."
You can check out Dean's work by visiting www.deansherwood.com and you can follow his backstage antics and get photography tips and advice on Twitter at: @deansherwoodpix