Tom Sheehan, one of the most celebrated British music photographers, is releasing a career-spanning R.E.M. photography book, R.E.M: Athens GA – R.E.M. In Photographs 1984-2005, out on Nov. 7 via The Flood Gallery. Paste is previewing 10 exclusive images from the book along with captions written by Sheehan.
Sheehan was the chief photographer at the famous, now-defunct Melody Maker, a U.K. music paper touted by its publisher as the world’s first music weekly. Sheehan’s work has been featured in countless other publications like The Guardian, NME, Q Magazine, The Sunday Times and more. Sheehan’s photos have made their way onto album covers by the likes of Radiohead, The Smiths, Coldplay, Oasis and more.
In addition to his new R.E.M. photography book, he’s published three other photography books covering the careers of Paul Weller, The Cure and Manic Street Preachers. R.E.M. was one of Sheehan’s favorite acts to shoot, so it’s fitting that the Athens, Ga., band is the subject of his latest photography book.
Sheehan first met the members of R.E.M. back in 1984, and according to a press release, he was “compelled initially both by their southern strangeness and unique alternative twist on ’60s rock and jangle.” Sheehan recounts, “Our first encounter was all very swift as most of these encounters are. Punk had gone past and there was this whole rush of new American music. It was the thing that we love so much about people redefining what you think about music.”
From 1984-2005, Sheehan captured countless images of the band, and he became enthralled by frontman Michael Stipe’s charisma and presence. ”[Stipe] understands an image,” says Sheehan. “For me, it’s about capturing a band at a point in time. I play only one instrument—the camera.”
Stipe wrote the book’s foreword, commenting, “Tom Sheehan was there to capture it all—these moments comprise a beautiful and fortunate life.”
The 240-page hardcover book, containing many unseen images, is available in deluxe and super deluxe versions, both available via Rough Trade and The Flood Gallery. The deluxe version is limited to 2,000 copies and includes a three-millimeter rigid-board slipcase, while the super deluxe version is limited to 500 copies and includes a bound-in certificate of authenticity signed and numbered by Tom Sheehan, three bonus 5×7-inch photographs in an envelope adhered to the inside cover and a similar slipcase printed on pearlescent paper.
Purchase Sheehan’s new R.E.M. book, along with his three other books, via The Flood Gallery here and scroll through the gallery above to see 10 exclusive images, along with Sheehan’s comments about photographing the band.
1 of 10
REM, April 1984, A&M Offices, London. My first of many encounters with the band.
2 of 10
Michael Stipe, April 1984. From day one, he always had that certain thing about him, totally at ease in front of the camera.
3 of 10
Peter Buck, NJ Paulo's Covent Garden, London, March 1985. REM were heralded as the leaders of the new American music that was coming over to the U.K. The editor of Melody Maker had that idea of running a cover on the whole movement of great new American music, and it fell to Peter to literally fly the flag. There was a bit of arm twisting going on, but he went for it and REM had their first U.K. music paper cover.
4 of 10
Michael Stipe, NJ Paulo's Covent Garden. As well as photographing Peter, I did some shots of Michael for a news story in Melody Maker. Without asking him to do anything, he walked over to the hat stand, moved it over on to the white cove and started to disrobe. All I had to do was shoot. One roll of 120 (12 frames ) and about half a roll of 35mm B&W. I wished I'd have shot a few color frames, but it wasn't the main gig of the day as Peter was still making up his mind about the flag shot. I think the tin of lager out of the shot helped!
5 of 10
REM, Athens, GA 1985. Myself and my editor spent about four days where my editor talked to each member individually so as to get the whole story. They were making a video for "Can't Get There From Here." This was spread over a couple of days as day and night shots were required.
6 of 10
Michael Stipe at their rehearsal studio Athens, GA, 1988. I did some solo and group shots. After the session, Peter took me and my chum to Gus Garcia's for a glass of beer.
7 of 10
REM, Dublin, 1994. The band were conducting international promotion from a mansion outside Dublin. In these cases, one takes their turn and utilizes every minute one is allowed. This image is an interesting shot of four blokes standing in a field in Ireland.
8 of 10
REM, Sydney, Australia, 1995. Traveling from the U.K. to Australia takes twenty two hours by plane. We were there for three days and took thirty minutes for a session after soundcheck. Never one to let this photographer down, Michael continued to eat his tea while I rattled off a few frames.
9 of 10
REM, Los Angeles, 1999. Torture time for the band. After I had taken some photographs in a hotel room, I took them up to the hotel roof. Noon on a roof in LA can be a killer, hence Michael shading his eyes.
10 of 10
Michael Stipe, Spain, 2005. A few casual shots taken in the hotel garden. He doesn't have to do too much.