Celebrated as ‘The Man Who Shot the 70s’, Mick Rock’s images define rock n’ roll.
Rock launched his career in 1972 with his portrait of an unknown David Bowie and spent the next four decades capturing the most fascinating and exciting characters in rock music. Coinciding with the publication of Rock’s new book Exposed: the Faces of Rock n’ Roll, Rock: Music included many previously unseen and unpublished images, as well as rare and unexpected portraits from some of Mick’s classic shoots. A journey through an exceptional career as well as musical history, this exhibition included shots of the full A to Z of rock n’ roll royalty, ranging from Lou Reed, Syd Barrett and Iggy Pop to Lady Gaga, Madonna and Debbie Harry; from Queen, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel to Andy Warhol, Kate Moss and The Killers.
In addition to his work with Bowie, whom he met in early 1972, Rock also created album covers for Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, Waylon Jennings's Lonesome, On'ry and Mean, Lou Reed's Transformer and Coney Island Baby, Iggy Pop and the Stooges' Raw Power, Queen's Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack, Geordie's Dont Be Fooled by the Name, the Ramones' End of the Century, and Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'n' Roll. Rock, who has died aged 72, became Bowie’s personal photographer as his profile soared with the release of his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, in June 1972, and captured some of the best-remembered images of the mercurial star. These included the picture of Bowie and the guitarist Mick Ronson eating lunch on a train to Aberdeen, and the famously provocative “fellatio” shot of the duo onstage at Oxford town hall.
Bowie's charisma through Rock's photography was intimate and ever so engaging, with Mick candidly taking his pictures and growing very comfortable with the musician. Mick stated, "I got him in his knickers, just camping around". As Mick captured the essence of Bowie, from his incredible glamour and beauty in professional shots, to him wandering around in his underwear, his artistic lens caught the attention of other huge musicians, such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop into his orbit. In addition to his still photography, he created several memorable videos with Bowie, for Life on Mars, John I’m Only Dancing, Jean Genie and Space Oddity. An enthusiastic raconteur, Rock stressed that his work always stemmed from an admiration for the artists he worked with. His work was nothing but absolute dedication to both the artists as people, his work in high class photography, and for the art of musicianship, and was and is still well-regarded and known for his lifelong dedication to his craft; he described himself as a "sort of image guardian".
He was a prolific artist, whose work spanned decades and generations, and this retrospective exhibition was a journey through an exceptional career. He lived the life as well as documented it. It displayed Rock's unbelievable lens, and highlighted some of the most iconic and exceptional pieces in the history of music, music photography, and rock and roll history. The exhibition at Idea Generation, was a fascinating retrospective of Rock’s work. It was a journey, not just through Rock's exceptional career, but through four decades on the inside of music history.
Rock Music: Mick Rock Exhibition opened from 11th November to 16th January, 2011 at The Idea Generation Gallery in London.
Blog by Libby Mitchell