TRIBUTES have been paid to Oxfordshire’s best known and most respected music photographer – Pier Corona, who has died.

Mr Corona was a stalwart of the local music scene and a familiar sight at local concerts and festivals. Musicians have been quick to pay their respects to the keen supporter of grassroots music, who documented shows by artists of all levels, but favoured new and up-and-coming bands.

Mr Corona, originally from the Italian island of Sardinia, lived in Long Hanborough, near Witney. He died on Monday, aged 61, leaving behind his wife, Gerry, children, Lauren, 29, Tamsin, 35, Chloe, 36, three grandchildren and many friends – particularly in the Oxford music scene.

Musician Tom McKibbin, formerly of the bands Undersmile, Coma Wall, Drore and Samuel Zasada, said: “Anyone who knew Pier knew that he was a wonderful man, an invaluable friend, and a true creative talent whose camera work has documented many special memories for his family and so many important moments in the world of art and music.

“He was a humble man whose generosity knew no bounds and whose love and friendship was truly precious. He was a very influential and important figure in the local music scene, having photographed everyone, and having been a huge supporter of local music in the past decade.”

Ronan Munro, editor of Oxford music monthly Nightshift, said: "Oxford music lost a very special person. Pier was a superb photographer and Nightshift has been extremely privileged to have used many of them over the years. He was also a genuinely lovely, affable and engaging chap who could chat about music for hours and was always keen to encourage musicians he met."

Promoter and music-lover Autumn Neagle, from Witney, said: “It was so incredibly sad to hear of the passing of one of our own, the creative force of Pier Corona. You will be missed Pier, and we will miss seeing the world through your eyes. You were a true free spirit and force of nature. Thank you.”

The organisers of Supernormal festival, at Braziers Park, Wallingford, of which Mr Corona was a big fan, said: “We are very saddened to hear of the passing of Pier, a warm-hearted, charming and talented man who, besides his considerable photographic skills, brought positivity and spirit to Supernormal on a level that’s completely unquantifiable.

"We’d all like to send love to his family and friends. The festival will never be the same without you."

A memorial service will be held for Mr Corona at North Leigh Memorial Hall at 11am on Wednesday, followed by a woodland burial at Windrush Cemetery in Witney at noon. A crowdfunding appeal has been set up to raise £4,000 to pay for the funeral.

Mr McKibbin said: “In this difficult time, we are asking for donations to help cover the funeral costs so that we can give Pier the funeral he deserves.”

It is already more than half way towards its target.

Oxford Mail:

Emma Higgins at Fat Lil's Witney. By Pier Corona

'Kind eyes, warm smile, and a life-affirming hug': Tom McKibbin pays tribute to Pier Corona

If you’ve been out to a local gig in the past ten years, perhaps at the Wheatsheaf or the Cellar, or if you’ve attended Charlbury Riverside Festival, Wittstock, or Supernormal, then you may have seen Pier Corona.

Invariably, he was standing just to the side of the stage with a camera around his neck. With his long greying hair, big moustache, and wearing a band t-shirt, he was an instantly recognisable character and if you like your music on the noisy, avant-garde side, he was at almost every gig.

To say that Pier was valued in the Oxford music scene would be a huge understatement.

His artistic eye and keen instinct as a photographer made him a revered presence at gigs; both performers and promoters knew that if Pier was in the house he was going to capture the perfect moment to immortalise the event. His photographs have graced magazines and album covers, and his videos have captured otherwise lost performances from singer-songwriters, jazz groups, indie upstarts, psychedelic rockers, and the most skull-cracking heavy metal bands.

Many of the artists he filmed defy categorisation. Indeed, very few people, besides say Ronan Munro and the other contributors at Nightshift magazine, have done so much to support and document upcoming Oxford musicians in the last decade as Pier did. But Pier’s patronage was often more personal than editorial.

When Pier came into your life, it was first as the guy with the camera at the front of the audience, but if you were lucky enough he became a cherished friend and a valued source of knowledge, support, and genuine warmth. A humble man, he rarely (if ever) accepted or requested payment for his work.

Oxford Mail:

Grace Exley of the Goggenheim. By Pier Corona

He gave advice to other budding photographers. He gave people lifts to and from gigs. He would go out to gigs four nights a week in spite of the tiredness brought on by gruelling shift-work to do what he loved doing – watching live music. And he was always there to welcome you with his kind eyes, warm smile, and a life-affirming hug.

Pier wasn’t so interested in the big name acts that came through Oxford. As a music lover first and foremost, he was more interested in discovering new bands and new sounds, and in taking such an active interest in all things weird and wonderful gave many of us the enthusiasm and courage to perform, even on the occasions when he was one of two people in attendance.

As a discerning music fan with an encyclopedic knowledge, he was sometimes the only person you needed in the audience because his presence was validation enough.

He would sometimes tell me that he was off to a gig to see four bands he’d never heard of, just because. He was exactly the kind of person that a thriving, vibrant artistic community needs, and he gave back so much to that community. His photographs are now eternal.

After a courageous battle with cancer Pier passed away on Monday, surrounded by four generations of his loving family.

Most people didn’t even know he was ill. Indeed, as recently as August he attended his beloved Supernormal festival in Brazier’s Park, taking photos all weekend and making new discoveries. His curiosity and intuition guided him to the very end.

Oxford Mail:

The Rock of Travolta. By Pier Corona

Since his passing was announced the outpouring of love for Pier as a person and for his work as a photographer has been overwhelming for those of us who knew him well, particularly so for his family.

He leaves behind a mother, a sister, his incredible wife Gerry, three grandchildren, and three daughters, not to mention a wealth of friends and family.

As a member of the band Undersmile with his daughter Taz, her husband Olly, and my wife Hel, I’m glad to say that Pier was a pivotal figure in my life. When Pier wasn’t making us look good in his beautiful photos, he was also an integral supporter.

Sometimes he would be a babysitter for our kids so we could go to perform (an important function); sometimes he was our driver so we could go perform and have a few drinks (a VERY important function); but he was always a friend first and he was always a rock for the four of us. From the tributes that have been pouring in all week, it’s clear that he was just as integral to many other local musicians as he was to us.

A review by Ronan Munro in the September edition of Nightshift opens with the following statement: “There are few things more frustrating than watching a brilliant band play to just a dozen or so punters, but conversely there’s something very special about being one of those hardy souls, all stood as close to the stage as possible to get the full effect of what they’re watching. You recognise most of those stood around you: they’re the people who have made turning up to watch unknown bands on a hot Tuesday evening a mission in life.”

The photo that accompanied the article? By Pier Corona, of course. He was one of the hardy souls.

I can't think how many times I've been on a stage somewhere, only to look up and see the incredible Pier Corona pointing his camera in my direction. It's heart-breaking to think that he's not going to be in the audience any more.

Picture: Comanechi at Supernormal 2013. By Pier Corona

Oxford Mail: