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Tommy Hanley - Icons of music captured through the decades








Tommy Hanley - Icons of music captured through the decades

Tommy Hanley photographed many key movers and shakers from the sixties and seventies, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many significant American and British musicians from the world of jazz and blues. That's Tommy 'snapping away' on the extreme right of the photo of The Beatles below. In fact, as a close and regular 'companion' of theirs, Tommy developed a special and close relationship with The Beatles.


Tommy Hanley



Today these images are available to buy on the Tommy Hanley Archive online.
Digger talked to Tony Hanley (Tommy's son) about his dad's achievements.




Digger: Please tell us about your background Tony.

Tony: I am Tommy's son, Tony. I own a business which is unrelated to Tommy’s image library. We specialise in fire safety systems, and its fairly well established as an independent professional company. It does, however, require a fair bit of my time, as there are still lots of opportunities to explore, both at home and abroad. So I don’t have as much time as I would like to have to develop Tommy’s business. But it shall be so, hopefully in the not too distant future, as the archive is extensive and covers a variety of people, places and events over time.

Digger: And about the background of your Dad. How did he get into photography and get to produce so many important photographs of people from popular culture?

Tony: Tommy (my Dad) is a different kettle of fish. He started work when he was 14 and decided to become a photographer just two years later. He was working on a newspaper and was very determined. It was taking a picture of the cenotaph ceremony that made his mind up. He was barely 23 when he made it (after having had many pictures published) on John Bull Magazine. John Bull was strictly limited to stories of an English nature. That changed dramatically when it became ‘Today’ magazine and suddenly the world wasn’t big enough. Soon he was going to Hong Kong with Princess Alexandra, and off on a tour of Italy with the Queen. Some years later he was assigned to photograph a group called The Beatles who were just becoming known at the time. He did so, as he did other bands at the time. But something happened when he met The Beatles. And despite the fact of having a very successful career until the day he retired, The Beatles are still with him, for a variety of reasons, especially John Lennon, whom he shared some special moments with. Tommy's musical artist images span many types of genres, from Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Marc Bolan, Led Zeppelin, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, George Melly, to The Beatles.

Digger: Can you please tell us about the history and heritage of the Tommy Hanley archive and how it has developed?

Tony: The history of The Tommy Hanley archive has followed the story of many musicians, in particular The Beatles. Whenever there has been an anniversary, his pictures are frequently published, and have always been in demand from magazines like ‘Mojo’ & “The Face” and others. Demand has increased with the death of John Lennon, and latterly George Harrison (he would much rather they were both still alive). So much so, that he was forced to dig deeper into the archive to find other musicians, and found he had much more than he knew.

Digger: How proud are you of your Dad’s photographic heritage and what doe it mean to you?

I’m immensely proud - who wouldn’t be? To think he was so close to so many artists at that time, including The Beatles. This was at a time when “celebrity” wasn't as hyped up and as short-lived as it is today. These were real people with unbelievable talent, but down to earth, who would spare the time of day and would not be full of their own self-importance, a very rare trait in today's world. The Beatles must have been the friendliest group ever, and Tommy was a trusted face.

On the money side of things, Tommy, being 82, earns a supplement to his pension, which is good, It's certainly more than he would be getting from being M.D. of a fire safety company.



Digger: Are there any images in the archive that aren’t yet available on the website?

Tony: The website is just a snippet of images that exist within Tommy's archive. We do have more work to do in getting a broader range of images, to grow the website display, which should not be too far away in terms of getting it done. Even with a limited number of images on the website, it has attracted interest from all over the world as far afield as Japan. We will grow on this success.

Digger: What are the best selling images in the archive?

Tony: The best selling image on the website is the one of John Lennon sitting at the piano alone playing ‘Imagine’. Of course, the website visitor wont know this, and it is in fact one of the special moments that Tommy experienced with John. At his home in Ascot, when whilst at the piano he sang the song Imagine, which at that time, was yet to be recorded. How good must have that have been? Your own private exclusive preview of what was to become one of the worlds most loved songs of all time?

Tommy’s own personal favourite is one of John smiling taken in 1969. He calls it ‘On Top o’ The World’. It really looks like that too, it wasn’t often you saw John smiling like that, with all he went through. I think besides the image itself, the real fascination lies in drawing more from Tommy about everything that surrounded the day that the photo shoot was taken itself, how it came about, what was the brief, how did Tommy go about engaging John to make him feel at ease? What topics of conversation took place in between photos and, most importantly, what did John Lennon think of Tommy? This is all important and work in progress.

Digger: Why do you think retro and vintage are so important to so many people these days?

Tony: I think retro and vintage pictures are so important to people nowadays because they yearn for the era, that was at the time, ground-breaking, new and never been done before, whether it was rock & roll, punk, The Beatles, these were unprecedented times. Yes we have a million genres of music today and some fabulously talented artists, but how many are as ground breaking as was then? How many will be one-hit wonders or go into the hall of music fame with time? By comparison, there wont be that many, as its all been done before.

Digger: What are your personal retro and vintage passions?

Tony: My personal & retro passions are many fold, from many different and distinct types of music, types including Reggae, Ska, Punk, Philly, Soul, Blues, Rock, these were all happening at a time when I was growing up and music leaves a lasting impression. Fashion-wise, I'm not sure that I would say that there was a vintage or retro passion, other than the original Mods, who were always turned out “just so”.

Digger: Who are your ‘typical’ customers, where are your customers coming from and what customer feedback/comments do you get?

The typical customer is as varied as they come. Feedback is always positive as someone somewhere will have a connection to one of Tommy’s images. Whether its an gallery exhibition, a birthday gift, or just something to hang on the wall in the home or office, its about the fact that every person needs to connect with some great memories. It could be a teenager who has just discovered The Beatles music for the very first time, or heard stories, seen some YouTube footage, or read something about their success. Typical feedback goes from the kind of person, or couple, who have heard James Taylor & Carole King sing in concert and who are smitten with what they’ve heard, to a guy or girl who’ve heard ‘Imagine’ played and who understand its meaning. Music lakes a lasting impression, everybody wants a connection with something connected to their past – an image, whether sombre or action-packed, does just that, so a variety of people buy Tommy's images, for a variety of reasons.

I’m really looking forward to running the show one day. Times have changed and thank goodness for the digital revolution, it makes reaching a global audience so much simpler, and I suppose from a business point of view, the rich variety of subject matter can be homed in on to reach the right audience, faster at relatively low cost.

The Tommy Hanley archive will have a lot to do with the Beatles heritage, but I wont forget that the image stable is as broad as it is long, therefore all of the artists in Tommy's collection, should, in their own right deserve an equal showing.

Digger: What are the best and most enjoyable aspects of running the Tommy Hanley archive?

Tony: The best and most enjoyable aspect of helping Tommy run the archive is really being able to give help when its needed. Although he’s 82, this is not an inhibitor for his enthusiasm and willingness to continue with electronic archiving, computer work and general running around. I think its a big achievement when someone of this age still has the fire in the belly to want to learn technology, software and try and keep up with trends and at the same time, manage the frustration of dealing with things that don't work as they should or pack up when they shouldn't. I have to admit, I find this a challenge occasionally myself, despite being far younger and supposedly “techno savvy”. Its also safe to say that there are some “sharper” characters in this industry who might want to take advantage of Tommy's, what I term, “old school” nature. In today's world, its simply not do-able, and my job (for now) is to remain alert commercially to make sure each deal is properly and fairly undertaken.

Digger: What are your plans for the Tommy Hanley archive in the future?

Tony: Longer term plans are on the drawing board now. The archive really hasn't had the exposure that I would like to have seen personally. This really is the first port of call for 2012. This means a bigger and better user-friendly website, more news and communication regarding Tommy’s success stories and really driving image exposure over time to increase awareness and of course, image sales and licensing.

Both Tommy and I have a basic level of understanding as to who does what, to make things tick, and what I don't want to do is deprive Tommy of the connection with the images and the drive to make every new day count in moving things forward closer to more success. He's a fit “old stick” and has many years to enjoy, and most importantly, what a great time to bask in the glory of recognition for what looks like a very glamorous achievement. With so many wonderful images, which I know, at the time, would have been gruellingly hard work. Using non digital cameras, sussing light levels and shutter speeds, dealing with cameras that jammed at exactly the wrong moment. And the gut-wrenching anxiety of waiting to hear that the dark room had developed your photos and they were good, only to get up the next day and do it all again -  that was if you had work.

I also want to invest time in recording interviews with Tommy for posterity, not just surrounding the images. And their background, but also like any piece of history, understanding how things were at that time and all that went with being a freelance photographer journalist in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s.



Tommy Hanley Photography - Icons of music captured through the decades- Paul McCartney, John Lennon, The Beatles, Rolling Stones Photographs and Prints




Some of my images are being released for the very first time, which you will see in my vintage print section. These are unique, one-off prints, which were made at the time.

I wanted a medium to share my life's work and allow members of the public to have a look round and if they like it - buy it, as everything you see here is for sale.

For pricing, please email me and I will get back to you with details.

The development of the site will continue and more of my work will be added with time, so please, take a good look round, enjoy, and come back again soon.










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