Music photographer Mick Hutson has died, aged 58

Music photographer Mick Hutson
(Image credit: Mick Hutson)

The family of celebrated music photographer Mick Hutson has confirmed that he died on Thursday, 1 June 2023, aged 58. 

Mick photographed many of the biggest names in music and guitar playing and his work appeared in Guitar World, Guitarist, Total Guitar and many others. His pictures were used on official album releases by Nirvana, AC/DC, Primal Scream, Queens of the Stone Age, Mike Oldfield, Judas Priest and more.  

Having started his working life as a "roughneck" on oil rigs, Mick eventually went to work for famous music photographer David Redfern. When he struck out on his own, he had quick success when his sensational pictures of Grace Jones were used in The Sun newspaper. “The next commission I got was from Select magazine to go on tour with U2,” he said. 

Slash at Gibson Night Of 100 Guitars

Slash at Gibson's Night Of 100 Guitars, London 1994 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

His pictures appeared in all of the big music magazines of the time and he became Metal Hammer magazine’s go-to photographer. Hutson did dozens of cover shoots for the magazine and many of the shoots became iconic, like this shot of Metallica walking in the middle of the street in downtown Manhattan in 2003. Hutson literally stopped the traffic in NYC for the shot. As cab drivers honked their horns and crowds gathered, Lars Ulrich pointed and said: “Look at all this chaos! It's all your fault, Mick!"

Metallica walking in the street in nYC

Hutson's famous Metallica shot, 2003. Lars was saying: “Look at all this chaos! It's all your fault, Mick!" (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

In a YouTube interview, Primal magazine asked him to explain the difference between a great photograph and an ordinary one. “A great photograph is not taken,” he said, “it’s given to you.” And Mick would work hard to win trust and get that gift. He was the official photographer of the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, the magazine's annual awards show, and the stars would greet him as an old friend.

“But he was like that with everyone," says Hammer's former Art Editor, James Isaacs. "Not just Robb Flynn or Ozzy or Lars Ulrich, but with every person who was lucky to have met him.”

Judas Priest live

Judas Priest, 2004 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

“He would always, annoyingly, push whatever brief had been placed before him,” says Chris Ingham, former Editor and Publisher of Metal Hammer. “But he always got 'the' shot, even if it was one that you hadn't thought of.”

“Photography is all about control,” Mick told Digital Camera World, “whether it’s controlling the light or controlling the situation with your subjects. Never be scared of trying something new, or chucking the original commission out of the window if it’s not appropriate to the situation. Some of my best pictures have come from tearing the brief up.”

Ozzy and Zakk Wylde

Ozzy and Zakk Wylde, 2001 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

When budgets on music magazines shrank, Hutson set up his own gallery, and took up travel photography and reportage, traveling to “post-conflict areas” in an effort to capture the results of conflict and war. He shot child soldiers in Rwanda and traveled with a reporter in Afghanistan. On one of the trips, says Sarah Hards, "they were tracking through mountains when Mick became very ill from a local parasite. He told me he almost died and that it had quite an impact on his outlook. He just grabbed life by the horns."

An even more amazing story: on one of his adventures Mick was kidnapped by Tuaregs somewhere in Africa. ISIS came to claim him but the Tuaregs refused to give him up. Why? "Because he'd taken such good photos of their kids,” says Chris Ingham. His legendary charm and his talent had saved his life. 

He died on Thursday, 1 June 2023, aged 58, his struggles with mental health claiming what ISIS couldn't. He's left us with some great stories and some astonishing images.  Here are just some of them:

James Hetfield of Metallica, San Francisco, 20th July 2003. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

James Hetfield, San Francisco, 2003 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Studio portrait of Lemmy Kilmister (1945 - 2015) of hard rock band Motorhead, United Kingdom, 7th November 2010. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Lemmy Kilmister, November 2010 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

George Benson, 1990

George Benson, 1990 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins, 1990 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Mark Knopfler of rock band Dire Straits performs on stage at Wembley Arena, London, UK, 16th September 1991.

Mark Knopfler with Dire Straits, Wembley Arena, London, 1991  (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Adam Duce, 1994

Machine Head's Adam Duce, 1994 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Paul McCartney 1998

Paul McCartney, 1998 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

WEMBLEY ARENA Photo of Steven TYLER and AEROSMITH, Steven Tyler performing live onstage (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Aerosmith at Wembley Arena, 1993 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

Brent Hinds of Mastodon performing, United Kingdom, 28th February 2009. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Brent Hinds of Mastodon, 2009 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Getty)

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Scott Rowley
Content Director, Music, at Future plc

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, responsible for the editorial strategy of online and print brands like Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist and more. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock for 10 years and, before that, the Editor of Total Guitar and Bassist magazines. Scott regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie