Revered photographer Derek Ridgers has broken his silence about his 18-year-old feud with Morrissey, insisting he is willing to put the past behind him because he's still a big fan of the former The Smiths star. Ridgers was caught up in the controversy surrounding Morrissey's 1992 Madstock concert in London's Finsbury Park when his iconic Skinheads photo was used as a backdrop for the former Smiths star's set.
But the photographer insists he never gave Morrissey permission to use his famous shot of two shaven-headed girls at the concert, which was marred by allegations about the singer's politics. Ridgers insists he gave Morrissey the OK to use the photo for one show in France and was upset when he learned the singer had used the backdrop in London.
He was left "gobsmacked" when he subsequently saw his work plastered all over the star's souvenir T-shirts and tour programs. On his personal blog, Ridgers, who has photographed stars including James Brown, Clint Eastwood, and Johnny Depp during his 30 year career, writes, "I received a call... that Morrissey would like the okay to use the skinhead image in a montage which would be projected during a one-off performance in France... I was pretty flattered by this."
"But when I eventually saw some live photos of Morrissey's infamous Madstock gig in Finsbury Park, I recognized my skinhead image as the stage backdrop. I can't say I was particularly pleased... The image was being used in a completely different way than the way I'd been led to believe. NME (magazine) did a cover story on the gig and, since I was one of their senior photographers at the time, they asked me for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding how Morrissey had came (sic) to use the image."
"I did my best to explain the little I knew and I sent them a xerox copy of Morrissey's note (to me). Unfortunately for all concerned, the NME article pretty much came out and called Morrissey a racist (which I thought was really dumb) and soon afterward I received another call from (Morrissey's rep) who said that Morrissey was particularly aggrieved that I'd let NME see his note to me."
"(At a later show) I was completely gobsmacked to see what had been done with the image of the Skinhead girls. Besides the backdrop, it was used as the cover of the tour program, they were selling it on T-shirts and it was even the image on the tour passes."
But Ridgers is adamant the spat has not affected his feelings for the singer, saying "There is no actual or implied criticism of Morrissey himself here... I was a Smiths/Morrissey fan before this and I still am. I love his music."