Michael Brennan Photography | Pictures by Michael Brennan Photographer

Photographer Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan is a photographer who has captured the lives and moments of many people in history. Hes won various awards for his work, including the British News Picture Of The Year for his coverage of the death of Donald Campbell in 1967. He has worked for several newspapers and covered important events, winning British Photographer of the Year in 1970. His work includes several pop culture icons, such as Led Zeppelin, the Bee-Gees, and others. His images have appeared in multiple papers and magazines globally, The New York Times, Sunday Times, Life, Rolling Stone, Sports illustrated. He is now retired and living in Costa Rica.

Proud Galleries has hosted numerous exhibitions and has photographer Michael Brennan's work on permanent display in the downstairs gallery at Strand Photography Gallery London in the heart of the West End. 

Amongst all his work some of his standout photos where of the band Led Zeppelin. Proud owner and Zeppelin fan Alex Proud, gave a short interview with one of the best shots of the band on their private plane Starship 1.

Watch here at:  www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=lRbs9H-9Tc8.

Let’s face it nothing says rock stardom more than having a fireplace on a Boeing 707…

Michael Brennan aboard the Starship

My photographs of Led Zeppelin from the winter of 1975 in Detroit had been in hiding for thirty years. I recently visited my film archives in the vault at the London 'Diamond District' of Hatton Garden where they had been stored for decades. Most of my favourite photographs from this turbulent evening have, so luckily, survived the test of time. I travelled with the band aboard their private plane they called the Starship. The Starship was probably the most legendary private plane there ever was.Michael Brennan.

Brennan captured the image whilst going on tour with Zeppelin during 1975. It was special moment as the band where fairly anti British press, but the manager Peter Grant has received some flattery from the newspaper and received an exclusive in return. Brennan was sent on the trip to Detroit, he said of the following concert “the atmosphere was, to use the well-worn cliché electric, and the sound was something I had never encountered before; it was an amazing experience”.

His favourite image from the exclusive was of Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, LED ZEPPELIN, JOHN BONHAM, INTERVAL AT OLYMPIA STADIUM. “My favourite photograph is an image in complete contrast to the sound and fury. The silence back stage and the lone figure of the late John Bonham sitting in silence, on his own smoking a cigarette and yet not a whisper of complaint at my intrusion”.

Michael Brennan Exhibitions

As Alex Proud indicates, rock and roll photography has become one of the most sort after art choices for many, images of the inspirational in their defining moments of glory. People collect what they are passionate about, Led Zeppelin are one of the defining moments in history, they where the band that took that blues sound and created a fusion with other genres, they where the precursor to heavy metal. 

Proud Galleries hosted an exhibition featuring many of Brennan’s pieces and images from former Yardbirds bassist Chris Dreja.’Led Zeppelin from the Beginning’ in 2015 was received with rave reviews.

Michael Brennan has been a professional photographer for over 50 years, he was born in August 1943 in Sheffield, his first position when he was 15 years old was as a messenger boy, when his family move to London he started for the The Croydon Times, he was influenced by columnist Brendan Behan and tabloid photographer George Phillips about newspaper photography.

He returned to the North of England to carry on as newspaper photographer for The Sunday People and The Daily Herald. He then went on to work for Rupert Murdoch at The Sun, during this time several of his pictures appeared in the then popular Life magazine, he went on to be awarded that British News Picture of the Year award in 1967. The images in question where of the tragic crash of Donald Campbells Bluebird world water speed record attempt on Lake Coniston.

Brennan didn’t have a camera lens long enough on the day and borrowed one from a fellow photographer, his camera was a hand driven Pentax 35mm, The Wednesday morning of January 4th saw me and other photographers from every major daily newspaper camped out along the shores of Coniston. My representation for the newly minted Sun was a bit hampered by the fact that I didn't have a long enough lens”, Hearing the whine of the jet engine as the vehicle came towards me was a help to know on what track and where to focus. Seeing the boat coming closer, I kept the focus on one spot (I would guess somewhere around 400 yards away). As Campbell hit my point of focus, Bluebird lurched upward, the way a jet would at take-off. I clicked one frame and instinctively panned right and clicked again. The third frame was of the aftermath of the crash”. - Brennan.

Brennan started working for The Daily Mail, during this period he was capturing images of the on going disputes in Northern Ireland. He was one of the first people to capture images of Mother Teresa of Calcutta for the western world. He captured her famously in one image working in Leper colony, handing out gifts of rice and blankets at Christmas time in around 1970. He has covered other world important events such as the war between India and Pakistan, ongoing troubles in Uganda.

Michael Brennan: Making a Name

The Daily Mail sent him to New York where he stayed, his work expanded to started capturing the big names of music and sport. Names such the Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Queen and Freddy Mercury, The Rolling Stones, as well as music he went on to capture sports stars, especially covering boxing. He famously followed and captured Muhammed Ali, also George Forman, Ricky Hatton and the tumultuous career of Mike Tyson, other than boxing footballers George Best and Pele. Outside of these Brennan spent time photographing other big names of the time from presidents too royalty, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, P.G Wodehouse, Arthur Rubenstein and Norman Mailer to name a few.

The Michael Brennan Muhammad Ali images include the now famous shot taken in 1977, the sweat strewn face, the champion in training, it now is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and it truly deserves the title of iconic. Brennan describes the moment “ In a hundredth of a second I shot the picture I had always dreamed of”. Prints hand signed by the heavyweight - when Ali signed copies he said “I can feel the texture of all that sweat and hard work. I can feel my life”.

Brennan was later to go on and capture retired boxer George Forman, who was now a preacher, it made Brennan think what had happened to the rest, this resulted in producing a book ‘They Must Fall, Muhammed Ali and the Men He Fought’, he spent decades following up the combatants from numerous fights to see where they had ended up.

Proud Galleries has hosted an exhibition covering unseen images of Ali, called The Champ: My Year with Muhammad Ali. Explore our archive to see these images and perhaps buy a print for your own wall.

Next up: David Bowie Photos!