Tony Mott

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Tony Mott
Tony Mott (crop 2).jpg
Mott in 2015
BornApril 1956 (age 6465)
Sheffield, England
Known forAustralia's premier Rock 'n' Roll photographer; Official photographer for "Big Day Out" music festival
Libby Sharpe
(m. 2008)

TonyMott (born Anthony Moulds, April 1956) is an English-born Australian rock and music photographer. In a career spanning more than 30 years his photographs have appeared in local and international magazines, newspapers, and album covers. Mott is recognised as Australia's premier rock photographer and a leading worldwide exponent of the craft. [1] [2] [3] [4]


Early life

Mott was born Anthony Moulds in April 1956, child of Brian and Mary Moulds, and raised in Sheffield, England. He was a student at Jordanthorpre Comprehensive secondary school, and trained as a chef at Sheffield Polytechnic before arriving in Australia in 1976. [5] [6] [7]

Chef's career

Mott trained as a French and pastry chef and spent 10 years working in hotels in the United Kingdom and in Australia. [1] [5]

He worked for six months as a chef in Sydney at the Opera House and at the Gazebo Hotel in Kings Cross in 1976, before helping establish a restaurant in Armidale, New South Wales. Mott then returned to England because of a limited working visa. [5] [7] [8]

Mott then worked as a chef aboard the cruise ship SS Oriana for two years, visiting more than 60 countries and developing an interest in travel and photography. Returning to Sydney, he decided to settle in Australia permanently in 1981. [5] [8] Whilst resuming work as a chef at the Gazebo Hotel in Kings Cross, Mott pursued his love of music, exploring Sydney's live music scene in the evenings. [5]

Photography career

Mott's interest in photography began in Sheffield, where he learnt basic black-and-white developing skills and explored an interest in social documentary photography whilst working as a chef. Pennie Smith, a London-based photographer who worked for music magazine NME , was an early influence. [5]

Sydney's live music scene

Mott's career as a rock photographer began in 1983 at the Piccadilly Hotel in Kings Cross. Mott went to see the Sydney band the Divinyls on Monday nights at the hotel and began photographing the band's lead singer Chrissy Amphlett. [9] Band manager Vince Lovegrove chose one of Mott's photographs as a tour poster and from 1983 bands began approaching Mott to shoot their gigs. [10] [9] Mott went on to document the Sydney music scene of the 1980s and 1990s when the city and suburbs were full of live venues and had a flourishing record industry. [5] [11]

Street press and magazines

Shortly after his first break with the Divinyls, Mott found work through the free Sydney paper On the Street, working closely with editor Margaret Cott, later publisher of Drum Media . Mott was given a free rein to develop his skills as a rock 'n roll photographer with many bands. His photographs began to appear in mainstream music magazines Juice, Drum Media , RAM , Juke , Creem , and Rolling Stone . [5] [12]

Mott's success is reflected in the number of magazine covers featuring his photographs. Since his first cover for the German issue of Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1990s, his work has been featured on the cover of Rolling Stone 14 times. [13] His photographs have appeared on an estimated 900 magazine front covers. [1] [14]

At the height of Mott's career he was estimated to have 172 music magazines on his books, and could sell one concert photograph to 30 magazines at a time. Today 162 of those magazine titles no longer exist. [4] [3] These trends mirror changes in the record industry, which in Sydney had 12 major labels in the early 1980s, down to about three in 2015. [11] The shrinking magazine market has seen Mott's income from this source shrink to an estimated 10%, with 10% from record companies, and the rest from band commissions. [5]

Album covers on display. Exhibition: "What a Life!" State Library of NSW Album covers. Exhibition, What a Life - State Library NSW.jpg
Album covers on display. Exhibition: "What a Life!" State Library of NSW

From the 1990s Mott's photographs were also featured on album covers. Notable early covers included Tommy Emmanuel's Dare to Be Different and the Beasts of Bourbon's Black Milk . [5] [8]

International music scene

Mott's first international portrait featured the Eurythmics. [5] Then in 1988 Mick Jagger was touring Australia to promote his first solo album [15] and Mott was hired as Jagger's tour photographer. This subsequently led to Mott being hired by the Rolling Stones and touring with them on three occasions. In the same year that Mott was hired by Jagger, he toured with Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac, establishing an international reputation. [8] Mott has photographed a large number of the international acts to have visited Australia. [5]

Mott's portfolio includes the most popular names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Elton John, Nirvana, and Madonna, along with major Australian acts INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Silverchair, and the independent Sydney band scene. [5] [10] [16]

Mott's portraits have become the best known images of many musicians and bands; examples include Chrissy Amplett of the Divinyls at the Piccadilly Hotel, Kings Cross, 1983; the classic shot of Peter Garrett at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1985; the much published portrait of Icelandic singer Björk at the Big Day Out , 1994; the defining shot of Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten (Lydon) at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 1994; and the dynamic portraits of Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave who sang the duet "Where the Wild Roses Grow", 1996. [5] [9] [3] [17]

Music festivals

Music festivals were another fertile source of photographs for Mott from the late 1980s. Initially he visited the summer festivals in Europe and the United States. Milton Keynes, Reading, and Glastonbury were among the popular UK festivals. [13]

A major breakthrough for Mott came in 1992 with the establishment of Australia's first Rock 'n Roll Festival, the Big Day Out . Each year Mott went on the road as the Festival toured Australia. Developing relationships with the bands he shot, he became the festival's official photographer. [5] [13]

Digital photography

The advent of digital technology has seen a decline in the demand for rock 'n roll photographs as fans at venues have their own digital cameras and mobile phones. [4] Mott sold 28 images internationally of band Red Hot Chili Peppers when he photographed them in 2000, compared to selling only three images in 2013. [5] Mott finally switched to a digital camera in 2008 after Nikon presented him with a D3 camera. After using it at a Judas Priest concert, he discovered it was well suited to live music, achieving dozens of good images, where film may have produced only a few. [5]


Mott's introduction to film came as a stills photographer with Paul Goldman's feature film Suburban Mayhem (2007). A number of films have followed. [5] [18] [8]

As of 2015 a large percentage of Mott's income comes from stills on television and film productions. [3] This has coincided with the advent of digital photography and other changes in the music industry including a decline in live music and drop in music magazine production. [5] [4] [19]


30 year retrospective showcasing a lifetime of work, combined with related ephemera from the Library's collection. [5] [20]

Portraits honouring the life of Divinyls frontwoman, Chrissy Amphlett. [14]

Mott's first solo exhibition. A 30 year retrospective coinciding with the release of his book: Rock & Roll is the new trainspotting. [13]

Coinciding with the release of book by the same title. [21]

Exhibition: "What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott" Exhibition. What a Life Rock photography by Tony Mott.jpg
Exhibition: "What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott"

A collaboration with Rock photographers Bob King, Ian Greene and Tom Takacs. Mott's photographs featured a selection of women in rock including the Eurythmics, the Belle Stars, Kim Wilde, Joan Jett and the Divinyls. [22] [23]

Exhibition: "What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott" Exhibition - What a Life Rock photography by Tony Mott.jpg
Exhibition: "What a Life! Rock Photography by Tony Mott"

Photographic output

Mott has published more than 30,000 photographs in 20 countries, including 900 magazine front covers. [1] His output is the result of 3,000 sessions and innumerable live shows that have translated into 400 posters, 500 CD or vinyl covers (singles, EPs and albums), featuring some of the world's greatest musicians. [1] [5] [14]

List of works

Mott's photographs have appeared in numerous published works. Mott has collaborated in and published a number of books featuring his photographs, often coinciding with exhibitions of work. These include:

A collaboration with four other rock n roll photographers: Bob King, Chrystene Carroll, Wendy McDougall and Adrienne Overall. Released to coincide with a national touring exhibition. [21]

A Large format compilation of Mott's favourite and best known shots, a retrospective from a 20 year career. [10]

Collaboration with author Alison Stieven-Taylor profiling rock 'n' roll women from the 1960s onwards, from Janis Joplin, Suzi Quattro and Chrissie Hynde to Courtney Love and Pink. [24]

A retrospective of Tony Mott's work from the last 30 years. [8]

A retrospective of Tony Mott's work from the last 30 years coinciding with the State Library of NSW exhibition: "What a Life! Rock Photography By Tony Mott" (17 October 2015 – 7 February 2016).


Personal life

Mott changed his name from Anthony Moulds to Tony Mott after receiving his first photo credit. Mott is named after the most influential band in his life, "Mott The Hoople". [5]

In 2006 whilst employed as stills photographer on the feature film Suburban Mayhem, he met production manager Libby Sharpe, whom he married in 2008. They have two children, twins Harvey and Lucinda, born in 2011. [6] [13]

See also

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  2. Byrne, Alex. "What A Life! Rock photography - Exhibition catalogue: 17 October 2015 to 7 February 2016" (PDF). State Library of NSW. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Fortescue, Elizabeth (10 October 2015). "The Last Picture Show" (PDF). Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Donegan, John (25 September 2015). "Legendary rock photographer Tony Mott says he can no longer make a living capturing music moments". 702 ABC Sydney. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
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  6. 1 2 3 Mott, Tony (2015). "Alphabet A-Z rock 'n' roll photography by Tony Mott : some rock, some roll, some other things!". Trove.
  7. 1 2 Mott, Tony (2003). "Every Picture Tells a Story". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. ABC Books (Sydney, NSW). Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mott, Tony (2011). "Rock 'n' roll photography is the new trainspotting: a retrospective of work from the last 30 years". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. Dulwich Hill, NSW: Rockpool. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 Duffy, Conor (4 November 2010). "A rare look at the world of rock". Australian Broadcasting Corporation Transcripts via Factiva.
  10. 1 2 3 Apter, Jeff (December 2003). "Life through the Lens". Rolling Stone: 11–13.
  11. 1 2 Storie, Ewina (11 November 2015). "Tony Mott reflects on the golden age of music photography and capturing images of Rolling Stones, Johnny Rotten and Midnight Oil". ABC News: Arts & Culture News. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  12. "Almost famous...An awesome exhibition of rock 'n' pop photography". Cream Magazine. 29 September 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "But I do feel young photographers are being cheated out of a great thrill". Canberra Times. 9 April 2011. p. 8 via factiva.
  14. 1 2 3 Meares, Joel (16 April 2014). "Rock photographer touched by Amphlett's raw power". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 13 via factiva.
  15. Crewell, Toby (17 November 1988). "Mick Jagger Scores Down Under: successful Australian tour reaffirms the singer's powers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  16. Skelly, Susan (1 November 2003). "Shooting Stars". Sydney Morning Herald: Good Weekend Magazine. pp. 54–56 via State Library of New South Wales Catalogue.
  17. Froggatt, Emma (12 October 2015). "Moves like Jagger...and Kylie...and Bjork: Tony Mott's music legends – in pictures". Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  18. "Mott Bio: Stills Photographer". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  19. Johnstone, Richard (17 November 2015). "Tony Mott didn't so much fall into photography as throw himself into it". Inside Story. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  20. "Ephemera on music in New South Wales : including pamphlets, leaflets, etc. related to classical and popular music, bands, performers and concerts. Includes advertising handbills spruiking popular musical performances at local pubs, clubs, and concert venues. All styles of classical and popular musical performance are represented, including Rock, Jazz, Blues, Folk and Country together with some underground forms including Punk, Grunge, Sca, and Metal". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  21. 1 2 "In the Act". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 May 1991. p. 199 via Sydney Morning Herald Digital Archive 1955 – 1995.
  22. Theobald, Marian (18 May 1984). "Rock bugs find a wall". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 38 via Sydney Morning Herald Digital Archive 1955–1995.
  23. Coupe, Stuart (27 May 1984). "Photographers try for a new image". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 114 via Sydney Morning Herald Digital Archive 1955–1995.
  24. Stieven-Taylor., Alison; Mott, Tony (2007). "Rock chicks : the hottest female rockers from the 1960s to now". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. Rockpool Publishing. Retrieved 1 December 2016.

Further reading