Big Shots

Big Shots: Ian Shipley…



Welcome to “Big Shots” – which we  launched in January 2024. 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 – who choose half a dozen shots from their own archive, and tell us the backstory to their images and maybe 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 photographer in the “Big Shots” spotlight is Ian Shipley……





Dublin-based Ian Shipley is a respected freelance photographer who moved from Derbyshire in 2012, where he ran a large commercial photographic studio, and now he specialises in music commissions and shooting cars and motorbikes for most of the specialist magazines in the UK and overseas, including Irish Vintage Scene, Back Street Heroes, Classic American and Retro Classic.

He has a very versatile background; Starting DJing at his youth club at 12, which eventually took him around the world for club residences such as in Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and all over the UK, plus large outdoor shows and a 100-date tour for the beer company Grolsch.

He was also in demand for support slots with acts such as Edwin Starr, Odyssey, The Real Thing and others, and working on live appearances with BBC Radio 1 DJs Steve Wright, Adrian Juste, Mike Reid, Gary Davis, Peter Powell and more. Today he hosts radio shows on stations in Ireland and the UK, and often interviews music stars, such as recent guests Suzi Quatro, guitarist Steve Vai and US folk star Janis Ian.

Ian has vast experience in the contract side of licensing images and broadcast content. Ian was co-creator of the leading humour brand Violent Veg, which graces greetings cards, books, calendars and various lines of merchandise.

Ian took all of the photographs for the Violent Veg brand which appeared on the greetings cards etc –  ‘Secret’ factoid:  Ian once flew business class to New York…”to photograph a carrot!” -until he and his partners sold the brand/company. Today, he is the main photographer for the annual best selling Irish Farmer Calendar that has attracted worldwide publicity.

With music images, Ian’s work has appeared in Blues & Soul magazine, Maverick magazine and many more. His music shoots include US band Wild Child, The Aces, US solo artist Joshua Radin, Paul Jones, Bastille, Twenty One Pilots, The Coronas, The Answer and he was the official photographer for The British Blues Awards at Newark Castle. Ian has also travelled overseas as a tour photographer.

“I was always into photography, since I was a young kid watching the magic of my grandfather developing film in his garage. I still have the Olympus OM10 35mm SLR film camera I was given for my 18th birthday. I got seriously into taking images of Hot Rods, custom cars and bikes which led to commissions for many leading publications. Moving into photographing music soon followed.”





Ian has chosen images of: Ben E. King, Buddy Greco, Judy Collins, Foy Vance, Sam Smith and Malaki. 




Ben E. King – Legendary “Stand By Me” star and former member of The Drifters, Ben E. King was touring with Gary US Bonds and I was at their Derby show with a colleague who had a meeting with Gary about a recording project. I was asked to bring my camera gear. Ahead of the show, myself, my colleague and Gary went walkabout to find some red wine! So a trip to the supermarket was necessary.
We got back and after Ben E.’s set, I walked back from the stage with him to his dressing when Ben E. King just stopped and smiled in the narrow corridor, and I popped off this one shot as he looked so natural and relaxed.
Sam Smith – A sold out 3arena in Dublin. Sam stands on top of  this giant horizontal gold statue of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of sexual love and beauty. The stage was very high and give us photographers in the pit a very restricted view. As I was cursing to myself, I took this shot. What makes it for me is the lens flare creating a wonderful rainbow.



Judy Collins – Grammy-winning folk icon Judy Collins is someone who has embraced ageing with grace, and never once asked me to photograph her in a certain way or have the lights set to ‘flattery mode.’ My shoot with her during a magazine interview she did with a journalist, was in a hotel close to Worcester Cathedral where she was doing a concert that evening, and where I was the sole snapper. One of the most down to earth and pleasant “celebrities” I have had the pleasure of working with.




Buddy Greco – Veteran American pianist and singer Buddy Greco was a big mate of The Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr etc…My shoot with him was when he was doing some gigs over here and the journalist who had set up an exclusive interview with him asked me to do the photos. We spent most of the daytime on this Saturday with him at the venue and he even sat at the piano on stage and played just for us. No one else in the building. It was magical. Buddy had many start-studded anecdotes, including about his time with his friend Marilyn Monroe.

Every picture of him I had seen had him in a tuxedo. He had it with him in his dressing room to change into for this shoot and for the show later, but he had his casual clothes on when he arrived. I wanted something different and asked him to keep his overcoat on. He obliged. He was chatting to the journalist having checked out the piano for his concert, and there were these lovely twinkling lights in the curtain behind him, and the reflection on the shiny piano looked lovely. Sadly we did not get to stay to see his concert because of prior engagements that evening. Sadly Buddy passed away in January 2017 at the age of 90.




Foy Vance – I know arenas can be fun and there’s a great sense of theatre to the big arena shows, but I prefer the smaller, more intimate venues, especially for shots of solo artists. But the lighting can be a challenge in the smaller places. On this occasion it was the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, and Foy Vance was lit very low key –  no bells or whistles on stage to distract. It was more about his voice and the songs.

You can sense the passion and love of his art in this frame. For us snappers, we usually miss a heartbeat when an artist comes on stage wearing a hat of any kind, which can present major issues with shadow across the eyes and sometimes the entire face. In this case, Foy’s peaked cap allowed just enough light on his face for decent results.

Having documented street buskers across Dublin city centre for about 14 years now for a long term project, I am used to working with acoustic musicians and the art of blending in and not distracting them or their audience.




Malaki – Dublin-based rapper, poet and songwriter who is normally pictured in a very urban setting. Pretty predictable locations and “look” for this kind of music and artist. I wanted something away from that, so for this session we headed to the Malahide Estuary in North Dublin. As the sun was setting on the water, this portrait emerged which I am always drawn to.




  • More “Big Shots” coming very soon…





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




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