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.
Today these images are available to buy on the Tommy Hanley
Digger talked to Tony Hanley (Tommy's son) about his dad's
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
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?
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
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
Digger: What are the best selling images in the archive?
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.