Destination / In Residence

Up close with the Arctic Monkeys

“As a photographer – and as a dude – Zackery Michael looks out for his friends,” reads the introduction to Zackery Michael’s latest exhibition, AM:ZM. His new show documents one of the most intimate and illustrious of those friendships, namely his eight year relationship with British rock band, the Arctic Monkeys.

To many, Michael may be better known as a fashion photographer, but this candid collection of images reveals a keen documentary eye. Shot over the period spanning November 2017 to August 2018, this series showcases a tiny fragment of a much greater body of work, capturing his friends over years of touring, recording, and the many innocuous moments in between.

“We’d always joke that [the photos] go into this bank that someday we’ll use,” says Michael. “Because of the five days in each city, it created a window of opportunity to show people something we’d been doing that they hadn’t seen before.” Michael is referring to the Monkeys’ homecoming shows, five consecutive nights in both London and Sheffield to celebrate the release of their album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. Alongside the shows, each five-day stint will be accompanied by an exhibition, giving fans a rare, behind the scenes glimpse of the album’s journey to the stage.

Michael’s intimate portraits capture many sides of his subjects – from the glossed rockstar exterior to the casual intimacy of a group of guys having a beer and hanging out. This may well be because the latter was exactly how the relationship began. “You’d think it would be like: “Oh, we met shooting”,” explains Michael, “when actually it was the opposite: we were just drinking buddies. I was friends with them for almost two years before ever taking their picture.”

“At the end of the day, when you’re on the road for that long, you just want someone you can hang around with and have a good time. Then if they take pictures, that’s great.” The fun shared between Michael and the Monkeys underlies many of the exhibition’s most memorable shots – from a tongue-in-cheek image of Alex Turner in a white suit vacuuming an enormous psychedelia-carpeted room, to a frame of Jamie Cook comically brandishing a pair of trousers at the camera. Many of the images were lensed in the lush surrounds of La Frette studios, a live-in studio housed in a chateau outside Paris where the band recorded the album. “It’s like a slumber party every night with all your mates,” describes Michael.

Yet despite their fame, the exhibition manages to be about more than just the Arctic Monkeys. It’s about friendship and camaraderie, about the process of making something creative, be it an image or an album. For Michael, one of the most rewarding results was seeing so many young fans attending the exhibition. “It’s interesting seeing kids’ minds blown like that, because outside of Instagram, or tapping like on a picture, I bet you none of those kids have set foot in a gallery. Most kids are sitting at home on their phones, aren’t they? The fact that they’re seeing things in the flesh, I hope that jump starts people to get back out and see things for real.”

AM:ZM runs ’til Sunday 23 September at KIAC, Sheffield. Prints will shortly be available via arcticmonkeys.com.