AFTER quitting his job as a chef, Tony Mott wondered whether he'd make the cut as a professional photographer; but suddenly in 1987, something clicked.
What a Life! - a State Library exhibition of photographic works and album covers by Australia's premier rock 'n' roll photographer - will head to Canberra on June 21.
The 62-year-old used to photograph some of his favourite rock acts while attending gigs in Sydney after work as a chef.
He established a name for himself in the early 1980s after he was noticed by the manager of Australian rock act Divinyls, who used his photo of lead singer Chrissy Amphlett on a tour poster.
Over the course of a celebrated career he has photographed some of music's biggest stars including The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Madonna and The Sex Pistols.
But Tony's early days in the industry were far from glamorous and he recalls having grave doubts as to whether a career in photography was viable.
That all changed when he got a call from Mick Jagger's tour manager in 1987, asking him to photograph the superstar's upcoming solo Australian tour.
He has subsequently completed three tours as the Stones' official photographer.
"I ignored the call at first; I honestly thought it was a mate from the pub. Luckily, they called back," he said.
Tony has never considered himself the best photographer in the business and attributes his success to his ability to relate to and talk to his subjects.
"Models are hired to do what the photographer or creative designer tells them to do, but musicians aren't models," he said. "They don't take to being dictated to well. You really have to collaborate."
He listed the portrait of Amphlett, his shot of Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett and his image of the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten with halo among his favourite photos.
He said he would be forever grateful to the late Amphlett, had loved the experience of touring with the Stones, and listed Michael Bolton as an artist he'd enjoyed touring with more than he expected to.
"I had no interest in his music, but he was a really lovely guy."
"It (not being a fan) helped me focus on my work, too. I've caught myself rocking in the pit and then remembered, 'oh wait, I'm supposed to be working'."
The exhibition runs at the National Archives of Australia, Canberra from June 21 to September 9.