Bryan Adams: An Icon in Black & White
Emerging as a photographer in the late nineties, Bryan Adams’ thought-provoking works have been featured in numerous exhibitions all over the world and bound into four books of intensely honest black and white portraiture.
The notoriously private Adams has been photographing prominent Canadians, as well as international celebrities, from the beginning of his career.
Published in 2002, Made in Canada featured famous Canadian women of note: Margaret Trudeau Kemper, Pamela Anderson, Céline Dion, and Alice Munro, with a moving foreword by Margaret Atwood. All royalties from sales were donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
Adams has since published three other books of photography, including American Women (influential American women dressed in Calvin Klein), Bryan Adams Exposed (a retrospective), and Wounded – The Legacy of War in 2013.
It is the latter — a stark yet humanizing array of photos of British soldiers wounded in conflicts — that seems to have had the greatest effect on the singer.
“Looking at these guys and their injuries made me reflect on who I vote for, and their views on these incursions, as I’m not convinced it was all necessary.”
“The most profound moment for me was talking to injured guys who had children but now didn’t know how to play with them because they didn’t have legs and couldn’t kick a football; it was really moving.”
Earlier this year, when it came to marking Canada’s sesquicentennial at its annual fundraiser, the Royal Ontario Museum chose 28 of Adams’ portraits to showcase at the black-tie affair, where tickets were $25,000 and $50,000 per table. Images of iconic Canadians, such as Margaret Atwood, Céline Dion, Michael Bublé, The Weeknd, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael J. Fox, were amongst the chosen.
“He’s one of our country’s foremost multi-talented artists, and his pictures highlight iconic Canadians who have had an impact, in all kinds of ways, on our country,” Susan Horvath, President and CEO of ROM Governors, said of the decision to feature Adams’ work.
“And the fact that Bryan is donating 100 per cent of the sales to the ROM testifies to his own commitment to Canada’s foremost museum. The exhibition is perfectly and beautifully aligned with our event, and our institution, which is dedicated to exploring and presenting historic and contemporary art and culture.”
Adams is one of a few who has been chosen to photograph Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee in 2002. While we will never know his secret, Adams charmed away the Royal façade for a resultantly candid picture of the Queen, smiling broadly in one of her many signature hats, and a string of pearls. An image so endearing that Canada Post used it on a postage stamp in 2004 and again in 2005.
Along with his dual career as a musician and photographer, Adams is a noted environmentalist, animal lover (he is an avowed PETA supporter and long-time vegan), and philanthropist. In 2006, following the 2004 Asian tsunami, he established the Bryan Adams Foundation, which finances projects to help the disadvantaged around the world.
In 2017, Adams is touring 2015’s Get Up to nearly 50 cities over the next seven months and working simultaneously with song writing partner Jim Vallance on songs for a Broadway musical based on the 1990 movie Pretty Woman.
Never one to sit still, the globe travelling Adams continues to follow his passions; music, photography, philanthropy, and his fans are just as committed as they were in that winter of 1984 when Adams brought his music to the masses through his sweeping two-year “Reckless” world tour.
(This article was originally published with my byline in HLM Magazine with additional contributions by Shawn Conner).