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Abbey Road Studios confirms Eric Johnson as their ‘Icon’ award winner for this year’s inaugural Music Photography Awards

The awards will celebrate the unforgettable, unique and unsung music images of 2021

Awards ceremony will take place on 14 May at Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Studios, the world’s most celebrated recording studio has today confirmed that legendary US photographer Eric Johnson will be the recipient of the ‘Icon’ award at the studios’ debut Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022 in association with Hennessy - the first ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography. 

Speaking about winning the award, Eric says: “It’s super surreal being the first recipient of the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography ICON Award. I’m super low-key by nature and through all of these years it never dawned on me that after taking all of these pics that ultimately it would all come back to me. That people would be curious about me. I kinda knew that my photos would stand the test of time but being considered an ICON wasn’t anything I really thought about. Wow!!! I’m into it.

Having such a diverse group of talented artists recognise my work is really what it’s all about. This is a curious industry we’re in. It’s been like a rollercoaster ride & this acknowledgement is such a high. It makes me feel like ‘Wow, I’ve really been right & onto something from the beginning & people are really recognising this. It’s AWESOME & inspires me to keep pushing even more. I wanna keep creating imagery that the culture really feels.

I hope this all inspires emerging talents to try & stay as true to yourself as possible. There’s potentially something great just around the corner. Don’t sweat the industry like that. Keep working on your craft.

Eric Johnson is a photographer raised in Newark, New Jersey, who is now based in New York City. Through his work, he embraces the soul of New York, bringing together young and old, black and white, natives and immigrants from all walks of life, as a community. Johnson, whose archive goes back more than 30 years has had work published in the likes of Vogue, Dazed & Confused, The Face, W, Rolling Stone, The New York TimesInterview Magazine and 032c. He has photographed luminaries ranging from Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather to Peter Bogdanovich and Jim Jarmusch but he is best known for his work documenting the US music culture of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. His photos of Biggie SmallsNasMissy ElliottLauryn Hill and the late Aaliyah defined an era of US music photography. His more recent work with the likes of Doja Cat and MPAs judge Shygirl places him at the heart of contemporary pop music culture in 2022. 

Speaking about the selection of Eric as this year’s winner of the Icon Award, Abbey Road’s Managing Director Isabel Garvey says: “The judging panel wanted the recipient of our first MPAs ‘Icon Award’ to be a photographer whose impact and contribution to the art of music photography has been pronounced and unparalleled and we have no doubt that Eric meets these criteria.

We’re delighted that Eric has accepted the award as his work throughout his career to date has been some of the most vital and memorable in music photography.”

In celebration of Abbey Road’s 90th anniversary, the MPAs will honour the images that capture the magic of live music, the creative process, and the exciting music scenes and movements taking place across the world. The awards will recognise photographers at all levels - whether established, emerging or undiscovered – via open-entry categories, as well as categories chosen by an esteemed judging panel made up of artists, photographers and influential names across the global music and photography industries.

Alongside the open categories (StudioLiveChampioning Scenes and Undiscovered Photographer of the Year) for which entries are now closed, there are four invited category awards, with the nominees and winners chosen by the official judging panel - made up of photographers, artists and experts within the music and photography industries. The official MPAs judging panel will nominate, debate and award these categories - each bringing to the table their own creative eye and expertise of the global music and photography industries. The invited categories are titled: IconPortraitEditorial and Artist at Work

Helming the inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022 judging panel is legendary photographer, publisher and film director Rankin. Alongside a globally successful career as a photographer and director, Rankin established himself in the publishing world as co-founder of seminal title Dazed & Confused, with Jefferson Hack, in 1991. Since then, Rankin has published titles including AnOther, AnOther Man and the biannual fashion and culture print and digital platform, Hunger, alongside more than 40 books. 

Joining Rankin is legendary music photographer and Rockarchive founder Jill Furmanovsky. Jill’s unparalleled 50-year career has seen her photograph many of the biggest names in rock music including Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Blondie, The Police, Led Zeppelin, The Pretenders, Bob Dylan, and Oasis and many more. Jill has also directed videos for Oasis and The Pretenders, published a number of successful music photography books (including 2021 Sunday Times best seller Oasis at Knebworth) and notably worked as Abbey Road Studios’ photographer in residence from 2017 to 2018.

Ground-breaking Ghanaian-American singer, writer and multidisciplinary creative Moses Sumney will be joining the official judging panel. Since first emerging in 2014 with his debut EP, Moses has received consistent critical praise across the board for not only his music, but his dynamic live performances and visuals as well. Most recently, Moses premiered his feature-length performance film Blackalachia at the Perez Art Museum Miami during Art Basel 2021, which was accompanied by a live album. Moses is joined by Shygirl, a multidisciplinary artist originating from the East London club scene, with a unique vision and style extending beyond the world of music and into high fashion. Beyond her genre bending and highly conceptual music, Shygirl was the centrepiece for Riccardo Tisci’s AW21 presentation and has soundtracked shows for the likes of Mugler and Savage x Fenty.

History-making American photographer and director Dana Scruggs will also join the MPAs panel this year. Dana’s incredible career has seen her break boundaries - becoming the first black person to photograph the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in its 50-year history in 2019 and the first black female photographer to shoot an athlete for ESPN’s Body Issue, in its 10-year history. Dana’s impressive career has seen her shoot renowned names across the music industry including Megan Thee Stallion, Janelle Monae, Mariah Carey, Travis Scott and more.

Also joining the panel is Rolling Stone’s Deputy Photo Director and photographer Sacha Lecca. Sacha has worked with the storied magazine since 2007, preceded by stints at CMP Media, the Guggenheim Museum and Newsweek magazine. His photography has been featured in Rolling Stone, Huck, Whalebone, Alt Citizen, The Photographic Journal, American Photography 36, and on various album covers. Sacha also recently appeared in Icon: Music Through The Lens, a six-part television series on the history and cultural impact of music photography, on Sky Arts in the UK and PBS in the US.

Joining the judges for the Championing Scenes category is revered music photographer and Abbey Road Studio photographer-in-residence Simon Wheatley. The Don't Call Me Urban! The Time of Grime photographer - internationally acclaimed for the pivotal role his work played in the birth and rise of one of the UK’s most significant musical expressions since Punk - will draw on his experiences behind the lens as a guest judge for the category; which aims to explore the important role music plays as a catalyst for progressive culture and communities.

Rounding off the judging panel is Abbey Road Studios’ very own MD Isabel Garvey. Named by Fast Company as one of their Most Creative People in 2019, Isabel has led a complete transformation of Abbey Road Studios since joining in 2014. During her time at Abbey Road, Isabel has been instrumental in modernising the Studios and bringing in the next generation of studio talent - with the addition of three new studios and the launch of Abbey Road’s educational branch, the Abbey Road Institute. Isabel also led the launch of Europe’s first music tech incubation programme, Abbey Road Red, which has seen over 15 successful music tech businesses graduate.

For more information on this year’s MPAs, please visit

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