Photographer Ross Halfin thought he was going to be a painter. He initially studied fine art at Wimbledon School of Art in the 1970s but dropped out and became a photographer after taking his camera to gigs and enjoying the hobby.
Since then, he's been credited as giving "rock and heavy metal the visual identity it deserved", having toured with the likes of AC/DC, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath to shoot them.
Some of his most renowned work has been with Metallica, and now a new book has been published by Reel Art Press that draws together Halfin's work on the band's seminal Black Album. Metallica, the self-titled fifth studio album released in 1991, became known by fans as the Black Album. The landmark record turned Metallica into global megastars. To date, it has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.
Titled Metallica: The Black Album in Black and White, the official coffee table book release is billed as "an epic celebration of one of the best-selling albums of all time", featuring classic and previously unpublished photographs of the best-selling albums of all time, featuring classic and previously unpublished photographs. It includes introductions by Ross Halfin, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo.
"By the time the songs and the recording were coming together, the confidence level was at an all-time high, and we felt better than ever about who we were and how we viewed ourselves with regards to being photographed," says Ulrich.
Hammett adds: "We wanted to give these songs and this album the highest-profile we could give them, and Ross was ready and willing to do that. To this day, I still think he's one of the best live concert photographers ever."
Having worked with Metallica since 1984, Halfin has travelled with the band to every continent and almost every country in the world, photographing all aspects of the band's career: in the studio, backstage, on the road and at home.
Halfin was with the band during the album sessions for the Black Album at One on One studios in North Hollywood and shot thousands of film rolls during the 300-date tour between 1991 and 1993. Having been so close to the band for so long in terms of proximity, there's a sense of intimacy and authenticity to his images, all of which are shot in black and white – at times moody, at others almost classical – veering from the bombastic to the calm.
The photographer doesn't just document the stuff music fans usually see – the stage shows, the carefully posed press shots (though he, of course, does those too). He also gets into the less glamorous side of being a touring musician at the top of their game, and the book bears a wealth of images shot during back-to-back rehearsals, interviews, band meetings, and their time spent travelling.
"We would always go to places and do pictures, and we would stop wherever we felt somewhere had a vibe... you have to realise with Metallica, it's always about the vibe," says Halfin.