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Some photographs of me>click!

DECEMBER 4
50 YEARS AGO TODAY
December 4th 1967 was my first day as a professional photographer when I started as an assistant to Dezo Hoffmann.
I was sixteen years old, terribly excited and eager to get started.

My first day involved glazing 850 whole plate (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 ) repro prints. This was a process of running the wet photographic print through a Kodak drum dryer.
Tedious, but better than school the week before!
Within a week I was assistant on a Jimi Hendrix session and then photographing pop stars.

My first music magazine cover was Manfred Mann (Record Mirror, Feb 10th 1968), the second The Beatles (Sept ’68). There were numerous editorial pictures too.
After six months I lost my job when Dezo’s contract with the Record Mirror ended, he was very short of money and couldn’t pay me, so I became a self-employed freelance working from his studio on a small retainer that barely covered my train fare, he never paid me my commission, but I got plenty of “experience”.

I bought a Nikon with a £100 left to me by my grandfather and was fortunate to be given a lens by a wonderful man, Keith Johnson, who worked at a camera shop, Paul Fraziers in Oxford Street, he went on to own the biggest camera store in London, KJP. Keith would allow me to get film and equipment and pay him when I could.
I am forever grateful for Keith’s kindness. Without him, I would never have made it.
I was very shy and conservatively dressed for the first year, later I became a trendy teen, dressed in a bottle green velvet suit, some of my clothes were handmade at

Carnaby Cavern, my hair was styled by Denny at Sweeney's in Knightsbridge. My shirts were frilly or Nero style with a round collar.
The swinging sixties were amazing, fast and productive.
I was a teenager with a camera and a pass to every cool happening fab gear music event.

My 50th professional anniversary is to be celebrated by a retrospective book and more to be announced during the coming year.


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DECEMBER 1967
I left school at sixteen and was to start work as a professional photographer at famed music photographer, Dezo Hoffmann's studio.
the studio where he had photographed the Beatles, Stones and in my second week, Jimi.
I missed the Beatle era, but did get to photograph them eight months later.

This is my 1967 passport picture, by Dezo. Somewhere I have pictures of me that first week.
50 years later I am just as excited about photography. I always loved nature and landscapes. When I was a boy I photographed the coastal scenes and documented my family.
I was a Beatle fan, so I got a job with their photographer, soon I was shooting pop stars myself.
Six months later I was laid off and went freelance from the studio.


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MAY 28 2017

39 YEARS IN NASHVILLE
On May 28th 1978 (my Father’s sixtieth birthday) he drove me to London’s Gatwick Airport where I boarded a flight to Dallas, Ft Worth.

There I bought a white bicentennial Chevrolet Impala and drove it to Nashville, where my new apartment on Music Row awaited.
I had jobs lined up and set to work immediately.
The 80’s were boom years,
I racked up hundreds of album covers, photographing many notable musicians in my studio, won a Grammy (album packaging)

and was probably shooting a session every day and printing most nights.
I was introduced to Johnny Cash in ’87 (we had met briefly in ’77) and a lifelong friendship and hundreds of photographs ensued.
I have been a professional photographer for 49 years.
I am shooting more pictures than ever and as passionate about photography as when I bought my first camera at seven.
Today would have been my Father’s 99th birthday.

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Photograph by Christy Milliken

I have been photographing musicians for fifty years, been widely published, have worked on hundreds of album covers
been fortunate to win a Grammy, plus garnered some print media and advertising awards.
But the greatest reward is the photograph itself. My passion for photography is stronger than ever.

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I was born in England, April 9th 1951.
The eldest of three sons and a daughter to Peter and Mary Messer.

My career began in London on December 4th 1967,
relocating to Nashville, May 28th 1978
.

I worked at Dezo Hoffmann's London studio at sixteen ('67) as his assistant.
I shot my first magazine cover a few days later.

Six months later ('68) I began my freelance career when Dezo was unable to pay me, working from his studio. I have worked independently ever since.


Me at Dezo Hoffmann's Studio where I freelanced from 1968 till 1974.
Self portrait. 20 Gerrard Street, London - 1973


Me at my Broadway Studio, Nashville 1988


This is my 50th year as a professional photographer
and my 40th year living in Nashville.

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings were the first artists I photographed
when I arrived in Nashville on assignment in 1977.


Waylon 1977
This is one of my first Nashville photographs.


I was brought up in England like most children of the baby boom era, being familiar with TV westerns, Davy Crockett and listening to cowboy songs:
“She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”, “Yellow Rose of Texas”, Roy Rogers’ “Champion The Wonder Horse” and “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley.

I bought my first camera, a Kodak Brownie 127, when I was seven and have taken photographs ever since.

I have photographed many musicians.
During the past thirty nine years in Nashhville I have been involved with hundreds of album/CD covers, either as a photographer and often as an art director/designer. My vision of Nashville stems from my British heritage and from hearing skiffle on the jukebox as a teenager.

I have seen many changes in the Nashville community and music business since my introduction in 1977. Nashville has become a major American city with a healthy food scene and eclectic music community.



I use Kodak film.

Some Nashvillians still think I speak "real funny".
Waylon once told me “You need to learn to speak proper, Hoss!”



My first commissioned album - 1978
Client: Anchor Records (London)

Artist: Cado Belle / design: Seabrook, Graves and Aslet

 

My first LP album cover was
Bobbie Gentry's "Ill Never Fall In Love Again" (EMI-UK)


Photographed in Manchester Square, London - May 1968

 

MAGazines (include)
Beach Culture, Ray Gun, SNOWboarding, Surfer, Rolling Stone, Spin, Q, Mojo, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Musician, NME, CMP, Bass Player, Guitar, Billboard, Oxford American, People, Cowboys & Indians, ..
.

CLIENTS (include)
Sony, BMG, Columbia, Elektra, Time-Warner, ABC, RCA, MCA, Universal,
Lost Highway, Mercury, Dead Reckoning, Texas Music Group, Lava/Atlantic, Johnny Cash, Stubb's BBQ, London University /Institute of Historical Research

MUSICIANS photographed (include)
Beatles, Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The Who, Diana Ross, Deep Purple, Elton John, Bill Haley, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lucinda Williams, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Dwight Yoakam, Joe Ely, ....

 


© Photograph by Bebe - 8.18.15

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SUNDAY TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE feature (UK)
Published October 5th
2014

Interview Published May 2014


biography

Alan left school at sixteen to become a professional photographer in London. He shot his first magazine cover a few days later (Manfred Mann promoting "The Mighty Quinn"), the second, published September 14th 1968, was the Beatles promoting the Yellow Submarine film.

Alan insatiably photographed the British rock and pop scene, working from Dezo Hoffmann's studio, first as an apprentice and then in 1968 as a freelance photo-journalist photographer, during which time he photographed such artists as: The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, The Kinks, T.Rex and George Harrison. Alan left Hoffmann's studio to work briefly with renowned music photographer, Gered Mankowitz (still as a freelance), before opening his own London studio.

During the seventies Messer was the independent resident Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC) photographer and was tour photographer for Iggy Pop, Deep Purple and photographed many visiting touring US bands and artists including several country music musicians, both in his studio and on the road. 
With "itchy feet", excited by America and it's commercial possibilities, Messer moved from his native England to Nashville and opened a studio there in 1978. An amazing opportunity to photograph the country music scene unfolded. 
The Los Angeles based record companies hired Alan instead of importing their West Coast based photographers. He got the work and the budgets were spent on the photography and not wasted on travel and accommodation.

During the 80s Alan was often shooting a session a day, many of which were LP album covers. His nights were spent printing in his darkroom. After a few years of a pounding schedule, he was forced into a break.
During this transition period, Alan was introduced to silk-screen printing, which immediately became commercially successful and he won a Grammy in 1989 in the Album Packaging category.
A screen print of his photograph of Johnny Cash set the stage for a series of ten albums for CBS Records (now Sony) called “American Originals”.  The Cash print, although not part of the series, defined the graphic style. Alan was about to return home to England when he consequently became so in demand with photography and printmaking, that he never left Nashville. 

 

A limited edition book of my JOHNNY CASH photographs
(1977 - 2003) is to be published in by Genesis Publications, working title,
JOHNNY CASH American Legend
.

 

click PRESS PASS 1973 for access
to personal archived "happy snaps"

 

 


My rubber stamp for freelance photography, 1968 - 1974

 

Below is one of my early photographs published in 1968
The Small Faces are posing on the roof of Immediate Records,
New Oxford Street, London.


L-R: Ronnie "Plonk" Lane, Ian MacLagen, Kenny Jones, Steve Marriott
Photography by Alan Messer 1968 © Rex / Shutterstock

 

I use Kodak film

My Nikon is always loaded with a roll of Kodak film.
In the studio I use Tri-X 35mm and 120mm in my Hasselblad
TMAX-3200 is a favourite because It allows me to go anywhere
and has a wonderful grain and tonal range
.

Digital
Currently I shoot with two Nikon D800's, Fuji X100T, Fuji X-PRO2 and an iPhone

 


"I love music, photography, writing, theatre, beautiful women, wide open spaces, family gatherings, the sea, walking in the woods, efficiency, most art,
cooking, some wines, most dogs, some cats, birds, trees, flowers, some people, good food and conversation, honesty, hard work, originality
and my personal freedom."

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