‘Before Frank,’
the Photography
Amy Winehouse

December 2023
Amy photography by Charles Moriarty

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Amy Winehouse's Debut Album, ‘Frank,’ photographer Charles Moriarty teams up with Behind the Gallery to put on an exhibition that captures an intimate period in the life of one of music's true icons.

This series comes from two fleeting photoshoots in London and New York. The images not only freeze a moment in history, but also pay homage to the remarkable spirit of a truly extraordinary artist.

‘Before Frank’ is more than an exhibition; it’s a tribute to the timeless legacy of Amy Winehouse, and the residents of Sydney and Melbourne are invited to embark on a behind-the-scenes journey.

This body of work is a celebration, a reminder of the simpler beginnings of a woman who would become, for a time, the greatest and most loved artist in the world.

We head to Melbourne to catch up with Charles Moriarty and see the impact Amy continues to have.

What inspired you to put on this exhibition?

The collection of images was released in a book called ‘Before Frank’ and was a bit of a response to the documentary. I didn’t want the film to be people’s lasting impression of Amy. It was haunting. Now as we celebrate 20 years of Amy’s debut, and in many ways my own, it felt like the right moment to finally get it on the wall here in Australia.


What was the plan for this shoot?

To put Amy front and centre and to tell a story that was reflective of her in the images. I had studied art history and was a massive cinephile, so I was looking for a narrative to make the images cohesive. We used whatever we could find in the end due to problems with location and a schedule that would not marry up. A London shoot became a New York shoot and then came a summer storm. It was a nightmare. It was a shoot where everything went wrong, but that’s often where magic happens.

How old were you and Amy when you took these photos?

Amy was 19 and I was 21.


Who was the girl in those photos?

Loud, intelligent, fun, insecure and talented beyond measure.


Can you tell us a bit about your time with Amy for this image?

The set of images with Amy in curlers came about when our location got washed out by a very large and long summer storm in New York. After all our plans got tossed out the window because of it, we sat talking and listening to her demos. Eventually I decided I had to start taking pictures, regardless, so this was the beginning. It’s unique in some ways. Amy is so relaxed and just herself in them. She let me in.

At the time Amy was not sure on her self-representation. She was navigating the delicate balance between Amy the girl and Amy the rising star.  The beehive was born on this photoshoot which later became her signature look.

Did any memories come up while you were curating the photos for the exhibition?

The images are so good at keeping the memories strong, I sometimes forget that those eyes were looking at me. It was a special moment for us; it was the start of my photography career and Amy would go on to win over the world.


Do you have a favourite Amy Winehouse song?

It’s hard to pin down, I love quite a few tracks from both albums. ‘Love is a Losing Game’ always breaks your heart. But I equally love ‘Brother,’ ‘October Song,’ and ‘Fuck me Pumps.’


This shoot was during both yours and Amy’s early careers. What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

When things go wrong, figure out how to pivot. And trust yourself. You’ll find there’s always a solution, you just have to change your mindset.

What is your favourite image in this exhibition?

It changes all the time but it’s nice to see the album cover on the wall, as it’s the first time it's been exhibited. There’s a mixture of Amy the girl and Amy Winehouse the star in the collection, this photo just showcases Amy the girl being herself.


How did you forge a professional relationship with Amy?

There was some amount of trust there and also a willingness to just go for it. I was not a photographer or part of the industry and the day we met we had our first shoot in east London. After that we hung out at her place once, after I had seen her perform. By the time we shot in New York we were friendly and she knew I understood her need for authenticity with the images. She knew I saw her; saw who she really was.