TWO decades of the Oxford music scene are being celebrated in a new photographic exhibition launched tonight.
Photographer and former soldier Johnny Moto is a familiar figure at concerts in Oxford, where he has documented the city’s recent musical history. Now the best of his pictures have gone on show at the venue where so many of them were taken, the Jericho Tavern.
The Walton Street inn is displaying 33 framed photos, some dating back over two decades. And he is launching the exhibition tonight with a gig featuring some of his favourite Oxford artists.
Among the bands whose pictures have made it on to the walls of the Jericho pub are local heroes Supergrass, Ride and The Candyskins, who emerged in the 1990s, and more recent acts like Mephisto Grande and The Young Knives. National and international names also feature, with pictures taken in Oxford and London of Nick Cave, Siouxsie Sioux and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, dwarfed by a bank of Marshall amplifiers.
“I’ve always loved live music,” said Mr Moto. “Taking pictures is the perfect way to engage with music and capture its energy and passion.”
Mr Moto’s father was in the RAF and he spent his childhood moving between bases in Britain and Germany, before the family settled at RAF Benson. Leaving Icknield School in Watlington at 16, he joined the army, serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He was stationed in Germany and toured Northern Ireland before leaving the Army at 23.
Returning to the city as a civilian he went to Oxford College of Further Education to study photography and took a job on the Banbury Citizen.
Then, in 1993, and with the former Yugoslavia descending into all-out war, Mr Moto put his camera away and volunteered to drive aid to the besieged Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Working for the Overseas Development Agency, he drove 150-tonne loads of flour non-stop from the Croatian border into the scarred city – frequently coming under fire from the Serb militiamen who were surrounding the city.
He said: “It was dangerous and the things I saw made a deep impression on me. Even when I got back I had a long period where I couldn’t take pictures. “But I started at the bottom, began going to concerts again and photographed them.”
He became a contributor for Oxford’s monthly music magazine Nightshift, where many of the pictures in the exhibition were published.
He said: “I didn’t know anyone, then, but I approached Nightshift to see if they wanted any pictures – and they did “It was only after I started that I realised how important Nightshift was to Oxford. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we have such a good music scene here. The magazine also spurred me on to support local music as best I can.”
And his favourite image? A picture of Oxford legends The Rock of Travolta – showing two audience members cheering them on. “I love the lighting on that,” he says. “It has been compared to a Caravaggio. And while I’m not sure about that, it has captured their performance.”
Tonight’s launch concert takes place at the Jericho Tavern and features The Goggenheim, The Lampost Gullivers, Vienna Ditto, and Frances Pugh & The Whisky Singers. Doors open at 8pm and tickets are £5 on the door.