Over the course of these articles one name keeps popping up. So many times I would ask an artist to send a picture of themselves and time after time the email back would say ‘oh could you credit this to Phil Dillon, it’s one of his’ Phil Dillon has, over the course of the last few years single handedly captured the look and feel of this ‘Medway Vision’, this startling, vibrant and fiercely independent artistic scene.
Phil Dillon has produced some astonishingly powerful images that somehow capture the grit of real life but never makes them dull. His subjects convey a sense of drama and excitement that is very tricky to pull off. Phil manages it with apparent ease.
Phil began “carrying a camera around all the time” in 2006 “I was interested in changes in my local environment, and how the seasons and time of day affect the way places are lit by the sun. Then I got interested in how Medway had changed over time and started digging old photos out of the MALSC archives and recreating them. After that, I began to consider what regeneration would bring and what it would take away forever. It was while I was reshooting the archive stuff that I approached the Brook Theatre because I wanted to get up on the roof. The staff were very interested and extremely helpful, and this resulted in me being given an all areas tour of the building and subsequently being offered an exhibition. That’s how I became a photographer by accident”
Working with just natural light, you can see Phil’s photography adorning album covers by bands such as The Len Price 3, Groovy Uncle, Theatre Royal, Crybaby Special and the Monsters, Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society and Wheels, among others. But, for me it’s the hundreds of live photos Phil has squirreled away that make me most excited. Looking at pictures, such as the one of Lupen Crook, he clearly knows how to take the tension from a room and coolly pop it into his camera.
Maybe it’s his musician background (Phil had been in bands for years before concentrating on photography) that makes his pictures say so much about live music. Maybe it’s his love of live music. Phil explains, “I like real life and the moments it allows us to capture. I try to point up things you might not have noticed about a place, or show it to you from a different perspective. With music, I try to take pictures that capture something of the music itself, portray the performer and make you want to hear the music”
When you see his pictures they speak more about that artist than any written review ever can.
Although not influenced by any particular photographer Phil admits that his love of music means that “a lot of Mick Rock, Kevin Cummings and Linda McCartney (massively underrated)” informs his work. Phil has had three exhibitions to date: 21st Century Cave Painting in Medway (2007), Exposure (2009) and Two Sides of the Same Coin (with Daisy Parris) in 2011. In addition to these, he has contributed to a number of group exhibitions by Medway Eyes.
But what of the future, where next for a man charged with capturing the essence of this ‘Medway Vision’? “I’ll do something biggish in 2013, I think. My work gets released all the time, either digitally through my Flickr portfolio or physically through the CDs and records they appear on. I’m thinking about doing another exhibition, or perhaps a book in both digital and physical formats. The working title is ‘On The Record / Off The Record’.”
Phil Dillon captures these Medway times so perfectly, so dramatically that we can only hope that this planned exhibition and book comes off because, frankly, our lives would be poorer, less real if you will, without it.
You can find out more about Phil Dillon and his photographs at: www.phildillon.co.uk