Mick Rock obituary | Photography

Barbara Merkley

Number of rock’n’roll stars have recognized the symbiotic partnership amongst music and graphic greater than David Bowie and, in the photographer Mick Rock, Bowie located the ideal innovative partner. Commissioned to do a photojournalism piece by the London business office of Rolling Stone journal, Rock went to a Bowie gig at Birmingham town hall in March 1972, and struck up an speedy rapport with the glam rock guru, just as he was metamorphosing into his Ziggy Stardust persona. It kicked open up the doorway to Rock’s fantastic long run, and he would generate the sobriquet “The Gentleman Who Shot the 70s”.

Rock, who has died aged 72, became Bowie’s private 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 greatest-remembered images of the mercurial star. These provided the picture of Bowie and the guitarist Mick Ronson consuming lunch on a prepare to Aberdeen, and the famously provocative “fellatio” shot of the duo onstage at Oxford town corridor. As Rock afterwards described, in all probability with tongue in cheek: “All David was hoping to do – and he spelled out it to me a lot of many years later on when we did the reserve Moonage Daydream – was chunk the guitar.”

Rock appreciated uniquely personal access to Bowie (“I bought him in his knickers, just camping around”), and Bowie’s trailblazing charisma drew other musicians this kind of as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop into his orbit.

Rock was ever-existing with his camera. He shot the definitive image of a panda-eyed, wistful-hunting Reed for the address of his strike solo album Transformer (1972), and bagged the dramatic address picture of a bare-torsoed Pop for Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Electrical power LP (1973).

His sleeve photo for Queen’s Queen II (1974) memorably echoed an graphic of Marlene Dietrich from the 1932 film Shanghai Categorical (“No a person was at any time more glam than the divine Ms Dietrich,” Rock explained), and Queen revisited it in their movie for Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975.

Getting travelled to New York on tour with Bowie in 1972, Rock became more and more infatuated with the town and moved there in 1977. “There’s no doubt that New York was darker, extra wicked than London,” he told the interviewer Barney Hoskyns. “Lou Reed took me to destinations you’d never have uncovered in London.” Rock inevitably uncovered himself photographing such icons of the New York scene as the Ramones and Blondie’s Debbie Harry, and cherished his shot of Mötley Crüe in a bubble bath (“the dirtiest, the naughtiest band of the 80s, God bless ’em”).

Rock didn’t like to communicate about his track record and upbringing, commenting that “I don’t typically get into that since I don’t believe it is vital,” but it was commonly recognized that he had been born in Hammersmith, London, his mom and dad Joan and David Rock, the latter a civil servant at the Ministry of Labour. However, Rock get rid of a diverse gentle on it in a 2017 job interview with the internet site the Talks. He explained how he had been conceived when his unhappily married mother had an affair with an American airman, who subsequently returned to the US. He claimed he had experienced two start certificates, the to start with of which named him as Michael Edward Chester Smith.

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

Having said that, it was as Michael Rock that he attended the unbiased Emanuel school in Battersea, prior to successful a scholarship to Gonville and Caius School, Cambridge, where by he took a degree in medieval and modern-day languages. At Cambridge he initially started to experiment with pictures, acquiring “a battered Pentax camera from a mate for 40 quid”, and there he met the nearby boy Syd Barrett, a founding member of Pink Floyd. Rock would photograph Barrett for his initially solo album, The Madcap Laughs (1970), with the again cover showcasing a naked lady, and also shot the centrefold photo for Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle.

Rock immersed himself enthusiastically in the lifestyle of the artists he photographed, and admitted that “by the conclusion of the 80s, early 90s, my cocaine challenge had obtained fully out of purchase. I could continue to shoot, but the rest of my existence was a wreck.” He divorced his to start with wife, Sheila (also a photographer), and married yet again, to Pati (who worked in authentic estate).

In 1996 he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and a kidney transplant, his professional medical monthly bill paid out by the Rolling Stones’ former manager Allen Klein, and subsequently savored a career rebirth. He had been irked by the “Man Who Shot the 70s” tag, taking into consideration that it produced him seem obsolete, and he photographed swathes of more recent artists like Snow Patrol, the Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monáe, Rufus Wainwright, Girl Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell Williams.

In addition to his nevertheless pictures, he designed quite a few unforgettable videos with Bowie, for Lifetime on Mars, John I’m Only Dancing, Jean Genie and House Oddity, and Bowie gave his endorsement to Rock’s textbooks Blood and Glitter: Glam – an Eyewitness Account (2001), Moonage Daydream: The Existence and Situations of Ziggy Stardust (2002) and The Increase of David Bowie 1972-1973 (2015). He also posted publications in collaboration with Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, and the Queen associates Brian Could and Roger Taylor.

Rock was profiled in Barney Clay’s documentary SHOT! The Psycho-Religious Mantra of Rock (2016). He was chief photographer on the films The Rocky Horror Photo Display, Hedwig and the Offended Inch and Shortbus.

An enthusiastic raconteur, Rock stressed that his operate generally stemmed from an admiration for the artists he worked with. “To me these guys were like Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, the Beats … I have been respectful simply because I really like these men and women and I really feel I’m a sort of impression guardian.”

He is survived by Pati and their daughter, Nathalie.

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

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