It was his art teacher who first suggested he should pick up a camera. “My paintings were shite. I had a wee camera but didn’t really use it much till I went to college where I did this design for print course thing at the GCBP (Glasgow College of Building and Printing). Most of the photographers who were there at the time thought I was studying photography I spent so much time in the darkroom.”
That’s when Brian Sweeney found he had more than just a natural talent for photography. A talent that would lead him to become one of the most sought after, award winning photographers in the Europe.
It was probably something that as always there in the background, as he explained in this exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds:
Brian Sweeney: ‘A-ha, the background. Funnily enough, I met up with some old schoolfriends of mine recently, who informed me I was always an arty-farty little bastard. I do remember being told by the headmaster that school was for learning and not a bloody discotheque - I’ve always loved that word ever since during that period we were all dressing up as Dexy’s Midnight Runners, something I still haven’t grown out of yet - well, that 80s period anyway.’
It was his fascination with music and fashion and soccer that led Sweeney to start documenting the clubs he and his friends hung out in.
Brian Sweeney: ‘I’d always been around bands from an early age. We were going into night clubs like Lucifers (now the Sub Club) and Fury Murrys to see a lot of later Factory bands. Then Acid House kicked off and I was sort of there shooting DJs, my mates etc, the scene basically for fun…..then ID, The Face, Melody Maker needed shots of the regional scenes and my name popped up quite a lot, so I started shooting for them up here [in Glasgow]. It just sort of kicked off…I then started shooting for all the labels, just in the right place at the right time. Everything happened very quickly from being on the dole and arsing around nightclubs to well earning money and shooting celebrities and arsing around nightclubs in London.”’
Arsing about or not, Sweeney is a legendary figure in the photographic world, known for his professionalism, enthusiasm and boundless energy, going from one location to the next, fashion shoots, adverts, documentary work, magazine work - his creativity never stops. Sweeney’s been described as the equivalent of Hunter S Thompson with a camera - but only far more talented - while his looks have been described as a grizzled Santa’s helper or a more handsome Billy Bob Thornton, take your pick.