Known for capturing some of the 20th century’s most iconic anti-establishment musicians, Adrian Boot remains a celebrated British photographer. His foray into photography began while living in Jamaica as a physics teacher and taking pictures of local musicians on the side. Not too long after, he would embark on a career documenting several innovative music movements such as reggae, dancehall, punk, and more.
Boot published his first photography book in the 1970s entitled Babylon on a Thin Wire, after which he decided to pursue photography full time. The book, which he did in collaboration with Michael Thomas, consisted mostly of street portraits but also included reggae artists at a time when they had little recognition outside of Jamaica. Of the project, he states, “I wasn’t so much interested in palm trees, beaches, and blue skies. It was much more the gritty, reportage, sort of 'romantic side' of photography.”
Eventually, he took on a position as a photographer for Melody Maker in London where he tracked the burgeoning punk scene. He also freelanced for publications such as NME, The Times, and The Guardian. London served as an ideal location for a music photographer as it was an intersection for several prominent movements. He notes that punk and reggae artists, for instance, often crossed over and were inspired by one another. In fact, it was his love for Reggae that endeared him to legendary British punk band The Clash.
In Addition to Babylon on a Thin Wire, he has published Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom, Firefly: Noel Coward in Jamaica and Reggae Explosion: The Story of Jamaican Music; all books that cover his work in the Jamaican reggae scene. He has traveled across the globe capturing a myriad of iconic musicians within the African diaspora, including Bob Marley, Grace Jones, Fela Kuti, and many more.
Check out some of Adrian Boot's most iconic photographs chosen by The Folklore team.
Photographer Adrian Boot
Words by Natalie Jarrett