From a small office in Notting Hill, Russell Blackmore endeavours to get limited-edition, iconic artwork of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix into even the most humble of homes
When was the last time you stumbled across a limited edition piece of artwork, particularly one that is associated with an A-list celebrity, and found that you could afford the piece? If your search for original artwork has been anything like mine in the past, then I imagine your answer is likely not often.
Step forward Sonic Editions, an online company based in Notting Hill, set up by Russell Blackmore to fill this very void.
Having spent his career in magazines and at Getty Images, Blackmore was submerged in the glamorous art world and couldn’t find a way of fulfilling his passion for iconic prints within his budget.
‘I started it because I was a massive fan of photography, but every time I went to an exhibition the prints would be thousands of pounds and I would only be able to afford a book,’ he says. ‘I didn’t believe that I was the only person who wanted quality photography without paying much money. There was a market between cheap clip frames and West End gallery prints.’
Working with some of the world’s best photographers and picture archives, Sonic Editions offers limited-edition, gallery-quality photography of the greatest musicians, film stars and cultural icons from only £79 framed – an absolute steal compared to the prices found ordinarily for limited-edition prints. Everything is hand printed to order, comes with hand-made solid wooden frames, is numbered and certified on the reverse, and limited to only 495 examples worldwide.
So how do they manage to make the price what it is? ‘We use the same printing techniques as fine art galleries, but by cutting out the overheads, and running slightly larger editions, we can offer the same quality of product for a fraction of the cost,’ says Blackmore.
‘All of our prints are proper photographic prints, printed to order and framed by hand. The difference is that they are larger editions and unsigned aspect, so slightly less collectable.’
All of our prints are proper photographic prints, printed to order and framed by hand. The difference is that they are larger editions and unsigned aspect, so slightly less collectable
Sonic Editions offers unrivaled music photography from the world’s most renowned music archives: from AC/DC to Zappa, by way of Iggy Pop, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Blondie, Miles Davis and Kurt Cobain.
‘It started off as just being all about music photography, but it’s hugely grown from there,’ he says. ‘Now you can find icons of sport too and we have photographers on our books that I have always adored like Terry O’Neil and Walter Iooss, who was the Sports Illustrated chief photographer in America, so people of amazing calibre.’
They work with an elite group of contemporary photographers and regularly add exclusive new work to the site. Their music photography collection partners include some of the most respected names in music including Uncut, NME and Rough Trade shops.
In 2011, they added Iconic Editions, a selection of cool prints of undeniably cool people. From Brigitte Bardot to Sean Connery and Michael Caine, Iconic Editions is a curated collection of those who are true modern cultural icons.
People think that every picture ever taken is on the internet, but they are not. We dig around and find archives that have rarely been seen before
‘We are always on the lookout for new photographers and archives. People think that every picture ever taken is on the internet, but they are not. So we dig around and find archives that have rarely been seen before and make them available for print,’ says Blackmore.
‘It’s all about the curation aspect of it too – we narrow it down to the best prints. That way, people can type in The Beatles and not have thousands and thousands of images to browse through. We recently went to Venice to an archive which was incredible. Because of the Venice Film Festival, all the stars from the 50s were shot in amazing ways.’
Clearly, Sonic Editions is doing very well. The beauty of having an online gallery is that you can put stuff up that might not be a huge seller, but could catch someone’s eye. It also makes the company international and Sonic Editions now ships out of London, but also out of Los Angeles too. ‘We had a huge order from China this week,’ says Blackmore. ‘We sell a lot in Australia and South America too.’
‘Getting Terry O’Neill on board was the most exciting development ever,’ he says. ‘I’ve always loved his stuff and I never dreamt that we would manage to get somebody of his calibre on Sonic Editions because he is selling his stuff for so much money. To get to meet him and get his work onboard was part of my wildest dreams.
‘We’ve got some amazing shots of Michael Caine on the set of Get Carter and they are incredible. It’s led to the big thing we are working on for 2017 – a pop-up gallery in New York, which is absolutely huge for us.’