Big Shots Features Zone

Big Shots: Charlie Chan…



Welcome to our newest Zone: “Big Shots.” The title refers not only to the extremely talented music photographers we feature each time, but also to the six photographs each photographer chooses to showcase their skills.

We invite amazing camera creatives from around the world – from veteran guys and gals whose images of iconic famous bands and artists have been seen globally for decades, to new and exciting young professionals who are star snappers of the future.

We also showcase the best of today’s most respected names in music photography – to choose half a dozen shots from their own archive, and tell us why they chose each picture.

The photographs they choose can be live concert and/or festival shots, portraits and/or candid backstage images. We also offer a brief bio of each photographer.

  • The latest lens man we are happy to feature in “Big Shots” is multi-skilling Charlie Chan…





Cancer surgeon by day, photographer by night. Cheltenham-based Charlie first picked up a camera as a young child and moved onto his parents’ Pentax ‘Spotmatic’ in his early teens. He developed his first film and made his first black and white print during his first year as a junior doctor.

Charlie took his first gig photos in 2005 and takes his inspiration from a number of great photographers who specialise in black and white images: Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Francis Wolff, Jim Marshall and his good friend Chalkie Davies.

As Charlie’s friend, the late great Canadian photographer Ted Grant said: “When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you capture their souls”.

Charlie Chan (left) with Wilko and Emmanuel Huguet – Cheltenham Science Festival 2015.


Guitarist, singer and songwriter Wilko Johnson shot to fame with Dr Feelgood, and then played with Ian Dury & The Blockheads for one tour and album, formed Solid Senders and for many decades had a successful solo career.  He also starred in smash hit TV series Game of Thrones.

In late 2012 he was told by medics he had less than a year to live, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He refused treatment and resigned himself to his imminent fate, while performing around the world to say goodbye to his loyal fans.

Still alive 15 months after his diagnosis, astounding doctors. A music photographer friend, Charlie Chan, a cancer surgeon in his day job, urged Wilko to seek a second opinion and set him up to see a friend of his, surgeon Emmanuel Huguet, who eventually told him he could save his life. He underwent a nine hour life-saving operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridgeshire, to remove the seven pound and 11 ounce tumour from Wilko’s pancreas, in April 2014.

Radical surgery removed his spleen, pancreas, part of his stomach and part of his small and large intestine. After surgery, Wilko had to be treated for two life-threatening tumours on his lung and liver. After a long period of convalescence, he was given the all-clear on the cancer diagnosis and doctors were amazed he stayed cancer-free. He toured worldwide and released hit records, and his career had a new lease of life, just like he did.

The intervention of Charlie Chan and Emmanuel Hugeut gave Wilko an extra eight years and seven months of life, but very sadly he died at 75-years-old on 21st November 2022 at his Essex home.

  • Late January 2024 sees the biographical play about Wilko- written by BBC Radio 4 writer Jonathan Maitland – opening at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex.




Charlie has chosen six images all of his close friend, the late and much-missed guitar great Wilko Johnson [Dr Feelgood, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Solid Senders and successful solo career.]



  • Wilko “In the Frame” July 2013 – at home.


Taken at Wilko’s home in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex during July 2013 as part of my “In the Frame” series [100 portraits of VIPs and celebrities]. Rankin had photographed Wilko just a fortnight earlier for his portrait series on terminally ill people. During this sitting, Wilko and I got to know each other properly. He said that he did not want to chase false hopes and wished that his end would be pain free.


  • Wilko, Roger Daltrey & Jools Holland February 2014 – Porchester Hall, London.


Wilko’s last gig before he realised that he might have another chance of life. Taken during soundcheck at the Pancreatic Cancer Charity Ball, organised by Suggs and his friends.

Legendary music photographer Chalkie Davies was standing near me when I took this picture, and we later became close friends. By now, I had already discussed Wilko’s diagnosis with Lisa Climie, Wilko’s manager and long-standing friend, as well as his two sons Simon and Matthew.


  • Wilko, Mike Fawcett & Yuriko Daikoko – “The Who Hits 50” Shepherd’s Bush Empire September 2014.


This was Wilko’s first appearance on stage [at the concert to celebrate The Who’s 50th anniversary year, for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity] after my friend Emmanuel Huguet removed his tumour in a 10-hour operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

After the gig, we were backstage with Wilko’s best friend Mike and another friend Yuriko. Wilko was showing off surgeon Emmanuel Huguet’s handiwork, which he called his “Mercedes scar”, because of its shape similar to the Mercedes emblem.


  • Wilko, Dylan Howe and Simon Johnson [Norman Watt-Roy in the background] – Soho July 2015. 


Wilko had just attended the World Premiere of Julien Temple’s film “The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson” at the Picture House in Soho. Wilko, drummer Dylan, Wilko’s son Simon and bassist Norman walking through Soho to play that evening at a charity gig at Oxford Street’s 100 Club, with the proceeds going to Roger Daltrey’s Teenage Cancer Trust.


  • Dr Johnson – speaking in Cambridge after being awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree by Anglia Ruskin University – October 2016.


Dr Johnson regales the students, dons and guests during his Doctoral acceptance speech. Fellow Doctor Suzi Quatro and the academics were in fits of laughter, as Wilko educates the students in his own inimitable style.


  • Wilko and Norman Watt-Roy, just before going on stage – Lakefest 2017.


My favourite picture of these two “Blood Brothers”. Norm’ and Wilko were the very best of friends. This was their first gig following Norm’s recovery from collapsing on stage at Hampton Court earlier that year. The look on Norm’s face as Wilko paces up and down tells of true admiration and brotherly love.





  • More “Big Shots” coming very soon…


Read Music Republic Magazine’s March 2017 interview with Wilko, here:





Festival crowd from the ‘big wheel’ photo [top of page] credit: Katja Ogrin




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