As well as being an internationally known photographer, Motion is also a musician. He’s played the piano since he was nine and later learnt the double bass so he could accompany jazz pianists. This knowledge of music informs his photography. “Because I’m following the music,” he says, “I know when a ‘moment’ is coming. I’m trying to catch that moment. So the music has an influence as to when I press the shutter.”
In the foreword to Motion’s 1995 book Jazz Portraits – An Eye for The Sound, Ronnie Scott described the empathy between jazz musicians and jazz photographers as being “understandable when one considers that both are concerned with the moment. For the musician it is the fleeting moment that involves the creation of some form of valid music and for the photographer the attempt to express it in pictorial terms”.
Motion visited Juan-les-Pins jazz festival where Ray Charles was playing, whilst drinking with fellow photographers in the champagne tent he heard big band sounds coming from the auditorium. He slipped away with his favourite Hasselblad camera and found the VIP seats at the front, just feet away from the stage, were empty. I found a seat right in front of the piano stool and the keyboard and prayed that I wouldn’t have to move. I checked the exposure and waited. Three minutes later Ray Charles was guided on stage. He felt for the piano stool and turned towards me. Clack! There’s my picture.”
Motion began taking serious jazz photographs in 1971. He’d been running a disco/jazz club in Portugal which had featured artists such as Ronnie Scott, Georgie Fame, Jon Hendricks, Brian Auger and Jim Mullen. He’d taken some pictures but describes them as souvenir snaps because he hadn’t yet mastered the technique of low-light photography.
Then, through a friend, he managed to get a photo pass for the first ever Lisbon jazz festival. For this he honed his low-light technique. One of his first pictures was of a very funky looking Miles Davies.
Since then he’s taken pictures of jazz and blues greats at jazz clubs in London – particularly Ronnie Scott’s, the 606 and the Pizza Express on Dean Street – and at jazz festivals all over Europe, but especially in France
Motion’s work has been exhibited in France, Spain, Brazil and the USA as well as in Britain. He has also built up a huge jazz and blues photographic archive which is much in demand by collectors from all over the world.