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NOWNESS: Photographers in Focus: Dennis Morris


Legendary Photographer Dennis Morris on Bob Marley, Johnny Rotten, and Getting Shot

Gavin Haynes

Gavin Haynes


“Dennis Morris is the Forrest Gump of British pop culture.

Gump moved through the world uncannily connecting with the cultural moment: teaching Elvis how to pelvis, phoning in Watergate, inventing jogging. Morris was 11 years old when a chance photo he took of a PLO leader ended up in the Daily Mirror. As a 16-years-old, he was in the right place to take a photo of Bob Marley with a spliff that now adorns a million bedroom walls. Through that, he became court photographer to the Sex Pistols, then the A&R man who signed the Slits and Lynton Kwesi Johnson. He designed Public Image Limited’s iconic Metal Box album, shot the cover for Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English, put on the Stone Roses’ first ever London gig, and his own band, Basement 5, were some of the first black faces in a white-dominated British punk scene. All this from a Hackney boy with no dad who was told by his school career counselor that there was “no such thing as a black photographer.”

When we heard a retrospective of his PiL shots were being shown at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts at the end of March, it seemed like a good time to load up the dictaphone, go down to his London studio, point it in his general direction, and come back groaning under the weight of culturally-important anecdotes.”

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