Sunday, November 28

Obituary for Mick Rock | Photography – Nach Welt

Few rock and roll stars have better understood the symbiotic relationship between music and image than David Bowie and Bowie found the perfect creative partner in photographer Mick Rock. Rock was hired by Rolling Stone magazine’s London office to write a photojournalism article for Persona. It opened the door to Rock’s brilliant future and he would earn the nickname “The Man Who Shot the 70s”.

Rock, who died at the age of 72, became Bowie’s personal photographer when his profile skyrocketed with the June 1972 release of his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, capturing some of the best remembered Images of the Mercury Star. These included the picture of Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson having lunch on a train to Aberdeen and the duo’s famous provocative “fellatio” recording on the Oxford City Hall stage. As Rock later explained, probably with a wink, “All David tried to do – and he explained it to me many years later when we were doing the book Moonage Daydream – was bite the guitar.”

Rock enjoyed a uniquely intimate approach to Bowie (“I got him in his knickers, just camping around”) and Bowie’s groundbreaking charisma drew other musicians like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop into orbit.

Rock was ubiquitous with his camera. For the cover of his hit solo album Transformer (1972), he shot the definitive photo of a panda-eyed, wistful-looking Reed and included the dramatic cover image of a bare-chested pop for the Raw Power LP by Iggy and the Stooges (1973).

His sleeve photo for Queen’s Queen II (1974) was reminiscent of a picture of Marlene Dietrich from the 1932 film Shanghai Express (“Nobody was ever more glamorous than the divine Frau Dietrich,” said Rock), and Queen picked it up in her video. again on Bohemian Rhapsody 1975.

After touring New York with Bowie in 1972, Rock fell in love with the city and moved there in 1977. “There is no doubt that New York was darker and more depraved than London,” he told interviewer Barney Hoskyns. “Lou Reed took me to places you would never have found in London.” Inevitably, Rock photographed icons of the New York scene like the Ramones and Blondies Debbie Harry and appreciated his shot of Mötley Crüe in a bubble bath (“the dirtyest, the naughtiest band of the 80s, God bless’ em “).

Rock hated to talk about his background and upbringing. Parents Joan and David Rock, the latter officer in the Department of Labor. Rock sheds a different light on this, however a 2017 interview with The Talks website. He described how he was conceived when his unhappily married mother had an affair with an American aviator who then returned to the United States. He claimed he owned two birth certificates, the first of which identified him as Michael Edward Chester Smith.

Rock’s portrait of David Bowie, Earls Court, London 1973. Photo: © Mick Rock

However, as Michael Rock, he attended the independent Emanuel School in Battersea before receiving a scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he graduated in medieval and modern languages. In Cambridge he began to experiment with photography, bought “a battered Pentax camera from a friend for 40 pounds” and met the local boy there Syd Barrett, a founding member of Pink Floyd. Rock photographed Barrett for his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs (1970), with the reverse showing a naked woman, and also photographed the centerfold photo for Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle.

Rock enthusiastically immersed himself in the lifestyle of the artists he photographed and admitted that “in the late 80s and early 90s my cocaine problem got completely out of hand. I could still shoot, but the rest of my life was a wreck. ”He divorced his first wife Sheila (also a photographer) and remarried to Pati (who worked in real estate).

In 1996 he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and a kidney transplant, and his medical bill was paid by the former Rolling Stones manager All small, and then enjoyed a professional rebirth. The label “Man Who Shot the 70s” annoyed him because it made him sound out of date, and he has photographed many newer artists such as Snow Patrol, The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monáe, Rufus Wainwright , Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell Williams.

In addition to his stills, he has created several memorable videos with Bowie for Life on Mars, John I’m Only Dancing, Jean Genie, and Space Oddity, and Bowie sponsored Rock’s books Blood and Glitter: Glam – an Eyewitness Account (2001), Moonage Daydream : The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust (2002) and The Rise of David Bowie 1972-1973 (2015). He has also published books in collaboration with Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, and Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Rock was featured in Barney Clay’s documentary SHOT! The psycho-spiritual mantra of rock (2016). He was the chief photographer in the films The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Shortbus.

An avid storyteller, Rock emphasized that his work always resulted from an admiration for the artists he worked with. “For me these guys were like Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, the Beats … I was respectful because I love these people and I feel like a kind of image guardian.”

He is survived by Pati and her daughter Nathalie.

Mick Rock, photographer, born November 21, 1948; died November 18, 2021

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