Blackpool maverick’s music muses

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ONE of Ian Tilton’s pictures has been hailed as one of the best rock photographs of all time.

His shot of an exhausted Kurt Cobain, tearful in Seattle, has become one of those rare things – a picture immediately associated with a moment in time. Tilton was the first European photographer to photograph Nirvana.

He has a gift for being in the right place at the right time.

Iggy Pop might disagree – one of Ian’s pictures from a concert in 1993 shows Iggy’s boot bearing down on him.

“The stage was really low. I was the only photographer there. I leant in over the lip of the stage and Iggy was really getting into the gig and took a swing at me with his boot.

“He did it a couple of times, and I got the shot.

“I got well out of the way after that, I didn’t want to get beaten up by one of my heroes!”

His photo of the Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown with an orange in his mouth has gone down in rock photographic legend.

Yet Ian reckons it was his early break, as a photographer for The Gazette’s teenage Press Gang, which helped him overcome a major hurdle and pursue his dream of a creative career. “I’ll never forget it was The Gazette that first published me,” he says.

Ian, who grew up in Anchorsholme, and attended Montgomery High School, wanted to be a marine biologist, but losing his hearing at 14 put paid to that. He’s never let his deafness define him.

“It was not and never should be an issue – life is about what’s possible, not about disability,” he says.

More than 30 years on, the award-winning professional photographer’s pictures have passed into social history as a gritty documentation of rock and pop.

Now Manchester Maverick: Tilton’s Twelve of the Best, are on display at the Contact centre, Oxford Road, Manchester, until September 13.

It features 12 extraordinary pictures, along with prints and allied merchandise.

Tilton’s book Set in Stone, featuring The Stone Roses, is due out next month.

Ian began his professional career in the 1980s, going where the rock and pop action was.

He took photos of bands as diverse as Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Iggy Pop, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, James, Oasis and more.

He recorded the famous Manchester club, the Hacienda, capturing the excitement of the Madchester era.

His work has appeared in numerous books and exhibitions, and his skills sought out by top music mags such as Sounds, Select, Melody Maker, Mojo and Q.

Turning his disability into a decided advantage, he has shoved himself in front of the loudest rock ‘n’ roll speakers in the world, and in the process captured some of music’s most memorable moments.

Today he’s an acclaimed theatre photographer (The Gazette still regularly features his work!) but also promotes and works in disability and mental health as a qualified counsellor – as an aspirational example of what can be achieved. For more, see

n jacqui.morley@blackpool or tweet her @ jacquimorley