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PHOTOGRAPHY

Intimate Bryan Adams photos ‘exposed’

Bryan Adams might be a world-famous rock star, but he's also a serious photographer. Nevena Rakocija caught up with him in Düsseldorf as he opened his new exhibition mixing intimate portraits of unknown British war veterans and celebrities like Amy Winehouse.

Intimate Bryan Adams photos 'exposed'
Photo: DPA

Adams picked up his first six-string during the “Summer of ’69”, but he was only bitten by the photography bug in the 1990s. After starting out taking pictures of family members and friends, he began creating his own album covers and eventually moved on to portraits of other famous musicians including Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.

His photograph of the Queen Elizabeth’s golden jubilee in 2002 was later even selected to appear on a stamp in his native Canada. He also helped fund the glossy German magazine Zoo, for which he still occasionally shoots.

“It is very easy to write songs, but it is also very difficult to write good songs,” the 53-year-old told reporters at the press opening of his new exhibition the NRW Forum in Düsseldorf on Friday. “I think it’s the same with photography. It is quite easy to take pictures, however it is difficult and demanding to take great photographs.”

The show highlights work from Adams’ new book “Exposed”, which includes 150 portraits taken over the past 12 years. But alongside slick pics of celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Adams has also photographed British servicemen wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He recalled how one of his subjects, an 18-year-old soldier, agreed to come to the studio accompanied by his father despite his horrendous war injuries. “The boy lost both his arms and legs on duty away from home, but his spirit was still very much intact,” Adams said.

“His father, however, became deeply emotional during the shoot. It was an experience which I will never forget.”

Click here to see Bryan Adams’ pictures

Adams also reflected upon his time spent with the late Amy Winehouse, whom he photographed on six different occasions.

“I think she trusted me. The photographs really show her having fun on set. They portray her as she really was,” he said. “Some time after the shoot, Amy called me, asking me to send some of the pictures to her husband who was in prison. I think I was closer to her than many people.”

The musician-turned-photographer also had kind words for his Rhineland hosts, lamenting that he wouldn’t be around for long.

“Unfortunately, I won’t have time to experience the Karneval here,” Adams said, referring to the festivities kicking off this week. “I’ve been coming to Germany for 35 years, and it is kind of like a second home to me.”

The Bryan Adams exhibition “Exposed” will be shown at the NRW Forum from February 2nd to May 22nd before touring museums around the world.

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RACISM

Berlin State Ballet’s first black dancer stands strong in racism row

Berlin State Ballet's first black dancer Chloe Lopes Gomes said she has been made to feel different because of her skin colour since she first donned ballet shoes as a child.

Berlin State Ballet's first black dancer stands strong in racism row
Lopes Gomes in front of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

But after she was again subjected to what she described as “racism” at Germany's largest dance company, she has launched a fightback that has forced the State Ballet to launch an internal investigation into her complaints.

In an interview with AFP, Lopes Gomes stood by her allegations against the Berlin company, arguing that it was time for the classical ballet world to address the issue.

Recalling instances where she was made to feel uncomfortable, Lopes Gomes cited a rehearsal for a production of the 19th-century ballet “La Bayadere”, when the company's ballet mistress was handing around white veils for the dancers to wear.

READ ALSO: OPINION: When will Germany deal with its casual racism problem?

When she got to Lopes Gomes, she laughed, the 29-year-old French dancer told AFP.

“I can't give you one. The veil is white and you're black,” she was told.

Another dancer from the company confirmed Lopes Gomes' account on condition of anonymity.

The ballet mistress “said it like it was a joke… I was completely shocked,” she said.

'Harassment'

Lopes Gomes, who studied at the renowned Bolshoi ballet in Moscow, felt humiliated — but not surprised.

She had been subject to “harassment” at the hands of her boss ever since her arrival in Berlin in 2018, she said.

Lopes Gomes at the Deutsche Oper. Photo: Odd Andersen

“In our first rehearsal for 'Swan Lake', six of us were new but all of the corrections were directed at me,” she said.

The remarks continued for months. “She used to say to me, 'When you're not in line, you are the only person we see because you are black'” — comments also confirmed by the other dancer.

Lopes Gomes carried on, because she is a “hard worker” who wanted to show “that I deserved my place”, said the dancer, born to a French mother and a Cape Verdean father.

But the stress took its toll. She injured her foot, leading to eight months off and a course of anti-depressants.

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

After her return, last February, she was asked to wear white make-up for a production following the departure of a director who had opposed the idea.

“Lightening my skin felt like denying my identity,” said Lopes Gomes, who has also performed with the Opera de Nice in France and Switzerland's Ballet Bejart.

When told of the allegations in the autumn, the company, which employs people of 30 different nationalities, responded with shock.

“We didn't think we could be affected by everyday racism simply because of our diversity. In fact, we never thought about it. But we were wrong,” acting director Christiane Theobald told AFP.

Asking a black artist to wear white make-up is an “absolute no-go”, she admits.

In December, the Berlin State Ballet launched an internal investigation into discrimination and racism.

“All employees can anonymously report any incidents of discrimination,” Theobald said.

The ballet mistress at the centre of the scandal has refused to comment and the company does not wish to speculate on possible disciplinary proceedings against her for legal reasons.

Lopes Gomes will leave the Berlin State Ballet in July as her contract was not renewed.

'Tuck in your black ass'

Lopes Gomes in front of the Deutsche Oper U-Bahn. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

In a world that is “very elitist and exclusive”, she knows she has taken a risk by speaking out.

But she has the support of others in the dance world, including her brother Isaac Lopes Gomes, a dancer at the Opera de Paris, and his colleagues.

“I don't know anyone who hasn't had racist comments like 'You have to straighten your hair because you have a lion's mane, you have to tuck in your black ass, you jump like Kirikou (the African child star of an animated film)',” Lopes Gomes said.

READ ALSO: 'Black lives need to matter in Germany': New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Since she began dancing as a child, she has been made to feel like an outsider.

“They never had the right make-up for my skin tone, I had to bring my own. And I was the only one who had to adapt my hairstyles” because the hairdressers didn't know how to style frizzy hair, she said.

She was always “so desperate” to fit in that she just went along with it. “But these are details that make you feel excluded.”

It's an uphill battle, given that classical ballet is governed by strict rules dating back to the 19th century that are designed to create an impression of homogeneity.

But it's time for that to change, Lopes Gomes said. “I'm tired of hearing that you can't hire black people because they don't have the bodies for ballet. It's just an excuse.”

By Yannick Pasquet

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