Shooting the breeze with the stars off guard

A new exhibition spanning 20 years of rock and pop captures some of music's biggest stars off-guard. Charlotte Cripps reveals the stories behind the shots

Six Shooters at Proud Camden provides a Who's Who of the contemporary music world. The 140 photographs, including images of Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal and Muse, were taken by six of the UK's leading music photographers, who have formed a collective. With their archive of portraits, spanning 20 years of rock'n'roll, they hope to challenge the preconception that music photography is not art. "We are not just jobbing photographers," says Mick Hutson, who snapped Beth Orton looking contemplative while she was drinking tea at a traditional eel and pie shop in London's East End. "We are artists, too. We have created a lot of art in our time."

So what distinguishes their work from being just another set of photographs of pop stars? "We get that extra little thing, which was probably never in the brief," explains Hutson. "The magic is a connection between the artist and the musician."

Other images in the show include Arctic Monkeys playing a game of pool in Sheffield just after they were signed; an exhausted-looking Bloc Party hanging out in an airport in the middle of their European tour; and Marina and the Diamonds sitting under a tree on the set of her "Hollywood" video shoot, wearing a stars and stripes dress.

How easy is it to get a musician to bare their soul? Andy Cotterill claims he had to lock Kanye West in the bathroom to get a shot of the rapper looking at his reflection in a pair of sunglasses. "I locked the door. I said, 'Look, I'm sorry about this but I'm not going to get you this shot if I don't get you away from your PR and stylist.'" A previously unseen photograph of The Killers' Brandon Flowers doing a ballet twirl to the piped Mozart playing in a hotel corridor only happened when the photographer Andy Fallon dragged the star off for a private moment.

Roger Sargent, who counts Paul Weller and Carl Barât as friends, says his photographs get better with the years. "The longer you spend with anyone, the more likely they are to bare their soul."

'Six Shooters', Proud Camden, London NW1 ( 22 July to 12 September