Exclusive: See David Bowie in All His Glam Glory
Photographer Mick Rock, who shot Bowie more than anyone, opens up about the late music legend. PLUS see exclusive awe-inspiring images of Bowie over the years from Rock and others.
Nobody has captured David Bowie quite like Mick Rock.
From their chance meeting in 1972—around the time Bowie reinvented himself as the androgynous glam-rock icon Ziggy Stardust—up to his death, Rock photographed Bowie in all his sartorial glory.
“You couldn’t take a bad picture of him,” Rock tells The Daily Beast. “I defy you to look through the book and find a picture you could call ‘bad.’ There aren’t any. He just had an awareness. It was evident early on—he understood the power of the picture.”
The book Rock is referring to is David Bowie: Icon: The Definitive Photographic Collection, a coffee table book that bills itself as “the most significant collection of David Bowie images ever assembled,” from 1967 to his untimely passing. The work of 25 photographers is featured in the tome, including Terry O’Neill, Masayoshi Sukita, Steve Schapiro, and of course, his most regular collaborator (and good mate) Rock.
“He had the bone structure. He didn’t earn that, but he knew what to do with it,” Rock recalls of Bowie. “And he was a Buddhist as well. He was kind to photographers, and people, and he came to play. He’d say, ‘What are you going to do with me?’ He liked direction. But it wasn’t really down to the photographer, really. It was because David was such a great subject.”
Rock, 72, is arguably the most celebrated rock photographer of the ‘70s (and beyond), with the British lensman shooting classic images of not just Bowie but Queen, T. Rex, Iggy Pop, Syd Barrett, The Sex Pistols, Joan Jett, The Ramones, and Lou Reed. You’ve surely seen his images, like the covers to the albums Transformer, Raw Power, and Queen II, or perhaps the ones he shot as chief photographer for the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He’s published several books of photos, and his work has been exhibited in museums all over the world.
And the Brit is showing little sign of slowing down. His most recently work is the cover of Miley Cyrus’ new album Plastic Hearts.
“She’s pretty cool. She’s a big fan of David’s. Big fan,” Rock says. “He might be one of her all-time faves, in fact. For all that stuff and sticking her tongue out, she’s a very nice young lady.”
Rock says he misses his old friend dearly, and can vividly remember when he learned the music legend had passed on Jan. 10, 2016, “right before that lump of garbage showed up,” he jokes, referring to the presidency of Donald Trump.
“I’d crashed on the couch, as I sometimes do, my wife goes to bed, and the TV was on. It was CNN. I was a little stoned from the night before, a little marijuana,” he explains. “They were playing ‘Space Oddity,’ and you know the way they run that stuff on the bottom? They said that he died. And I… I knew he wasn’t well. But the way he died was so clean. He didn’t overdose on drugs or anything like that. David had an awareness. And you know, you can see it in his photographs.”
“David was generous. When I got sick, he sent me some money,” Rock adds. “I did nearly die a couple of times, but I was a reject. I knocked on heaven’s door, and was told to piss off. But I could always take pictures.”