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Chris Lopez: Putting DJ Faces To Names

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Monday, June 30, 2003
"DJ Fink tells us in the introduction to Chris Lopez's collection of portraits of the men and women known for their mixes than their magnetism, that 'club DJs are the rock stars of the 21st century'. That's so 20th Century. The fact is that the cult of the superstar DJ is appearing an increasingly bogus concept."

When Sony Music's in house photographer Chris Lopez first decided to create a book of portraits of 100 top DJs, he had little idea of the rage such a simple idea could provoke. Conceived as a project to match DJs' faces with their usually far better known names, he set to work creating the collection, snapping luminaries from Fatboy Slim to Roger Sanchez alongside lesser known characters like model turned spinner DJ Sassy and ambient guru Mixmaster Morris. Two years down the line, he set to work on a parallel exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, placing his DJs alongside pictures of Napoleon, Sir Walter Raleigh and Anne Boleyn, while his publisher sent copies to journalists to review. One of which landed on the desk of Standard hack Kevin Le Gendre, a presumably club hating scribe with a bitter taste for bile.

"That journalist was actually dismissing dance music altogether, he started his piece by saying who would want to do a book about DJs when dance music is on its arse-'" said Chris in an interview this week with Jonty Skrufff.

"Sorry, but that's fucking short sighted, because dance music has already made its mark and it's here to stay, in the same way that rap or any other genre is. People like Norman Cook and Carl Cox have built themselves up into equal status as rock icons and if you're a 15 year kid and you like banging music you won't like Avril Lavigne but you'll love Carl Cox."

Chris was chatting in his studio in the depths of Sony's Oxford Street headquarters, a Tardis-style warehouse style space completely at odds with the open-plan office areas surrounding it. Decorated with life sized prints of album shoots he's done (the biggest, both physically and commercially being Toploader's Dancing In the Moonlight cover, which sold 3 million units) the room was also the location for many of the shoots for the book in question, called appropriately enough DJS by Lopez.

"One thing I always thought about DJs was that while you might know their name you might well not know their face and that was the case for me, even though I'm in the industry," he admitted

"I'd know the name Tall Paul, for example, but I couldn't picture his face. So the book is intended as a way of introducing the faces and the characters of these DJs to a wide range of people, also beyond just clubbers. Carl Cox is another DJ featured who people outside of the clubbing world might not recognise. The book's about putting faces to names."

Skrufff: How did the book project come about in the first place-

Chris Lopez: "It was my own concept, I was initially approached by to shoot 200 DJs, just when they were beginning and when I heard that, I was jumping up and down thinking 'great, I can buy a house'. Though as everything developed it became clear that signing up 200 DJs to an online operation was a massive project so they did the sensible thing and took on the key major DJs to start with and built it up from there. At that point I ended up shooting maybe 20 of the biggest DJs in the world, people like Danny Rampling and Carl Cox.. With those 20 done I realised that by doing 100 DJs this would be a great body of work, whether it became a book, or even an exhibition or video art installation, whatever."

Skrufff: The DJ selection is, er, esoteric (difficult to understand), how did you choose your 100-

Chris Lopez: "It was an organic process, I'm a photographer not a chart compiler so all I tried to do was put together something representative. I sent out letters to loads of DJs, including currently signed ones and characters like Rocket Ron and A Man Called Adam, who go way back to bri