David Bowie – Silhouettes & Shadows
Lucy Bell Gallery is pleased to present David Bowie – Silhouettes and Shadows a visual celebration of the life and career of David Bowie as remembered by the photographers who knew and worked with him.
Lucy Bell Gallery is pleased to present David Bowie - Silhouettes and Shadows a visual celebration of the life and career of David Bowie as remembered by the photographers who knew and worked with him, the exhibition is a collaboration with Rockarchive.com & on tour from Photofusion in Brixton, and features work by twelve of the world's leading music photographers. It includes images by Mick Rock, Geoff MacCormack, Barrie Wentzell, Steve Rapport, Ian Dickson, Terry Pastor, Mark Mawston, Stefan Wallgren and Janet Macoska, as well as new and previously un-exhibited work by Fernando Aceves, Ray Stevenson and Dave Hogan.
The prints in the exhibition showcase Bowie's early career in Beckenham in the late 1960s, the rise of Ziggy Stardust and his changing personas in the decades that follow, through to one of his final live performances in 2003. Whilst the images capture his innovative and uncompromising musical genius, accompanying anecdotes and recollections by the photographers reveal the more personal and unique relationships they had with him.
“There is a certain protocol when you work with an artist like David Bowie. You're not there to be his new best friend, you're there to record what's going on. So one time on the Sound and Vision Tour we were travelling across Canada via train, rather than flying which he didn’t like, and he came and sat next to me. This put me into a state of panic because I didn't want everybody to think I was trying to be too forward being the new guy on tour.
But it turned out the reason he came to sit next to me was because I was reading Viz. He'd heard of this new adult comic and wanted my copy to read. When my photo appeared in the papers of him reading Viz, they gave him a spoof Bowie column in the next magazine.”
During the years 1973-1976 writer/producer Geoff MacCormack toured with David Bowie on the Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans tours as backing vocalist and support artist. During this period he also recorded on the six albums for "Aladdin Sane" to "Station to Station" and co-wrote the music of "Rock and Roll With Me" on "Diamond Dogs" and "Turn Blue" with Iggy Pop on the album "Lust for Life". Geoff also hung out on the sets of "The Man Who Fell to Earth" as a completely inappropriate stand in for David Bowie! Throughout the touring years of 73-79 Bowie couldn't fly so the pair of old childhood schoolfriends circumnavigated the world by ship, train and land. The extensive time spent travelling and the methods used meant Geoff had unique opportunities to collect photographic memories of the tours with Bowie, and this reflects in the simple, relaxed off guard moments David has been captured in.
"Just a few days before the only David Bowie concert in Mexico City, I received a phone call from the local promoter telling me he had special permission to take a few shots of David Bowie at the "Pyramids of Teotihuacan" The archaeological site 50 km from the capital city, in order to send them to the local media to promote the gig. We had a wonderful and casual time at the Mexican Pyramids. He was a very natural man, I would say "A true human being" He was amazed to be close to the ancient constructions."
"It was a rather overcast day in London and Mick Watts and I went over to interview David at his manager Tony DeFries’ rather small and grubby office.in Regent Street. As we entered, David was sitting very pretty in this amazingly bright outfit, lazily smoking a cigarette and reading a book. “Hello, come in”, he said smiling and after we got over the shock of the new Bowie look, Mick and I sat down and had a cup of tea and a chat about what he was up too with this ‘new look’.
During the chat/interview David announced he was gay and always had been much to the shock of our Mick Watts who though a bit stunned, continued the interview with a quizzical expression of disbelief, while I took pictures and tried not to laugh. True, there were many gay folks in the ‘biz’ but none of them would admit it to the press. I thought David was ‘pulling our leg’ and it was just part of his new act with Ziggy. This photo, below, was used on the front page of the Melody Maker for the next week’s issue, reversed so David is looking the other way, it caused a lot of talk and as David told me later, the publicity had made him, or rather Ziggy, a star.
By Barrie Wentzell as excerpted from his forthcoming book
David was making a video for the song ‘Loving the Alien’, from the ‘Tonight’ album, and wanted to use a photographer that he hadn’t worked with before. A couple of people recommended me (one of them was the publicist Versa Manos), so David and Coco asked to see my book. They liked it, so they asked me to be the photographer for the video shoot, and to shoot the cover for the single at the shoot.
When I arrived at Meantime Studios in Greenwich, David walked right up to me, extended his hand, and said “Hello, I’m David. You must be Steve.” That was probably the defining moment of my entire photography career.
It was special the way he could make absolutely everyone around him feel at ease. Although one would think he would be pretentious, he was gentlemanly, open and friendly. He didn’t hide in his dressing room. He spent the whole two day shoot hanging out with the crew, all of whom were presumably in awe of him. His presence made everyone relaxed, and everyone was willing to go the extra mile to make the project a success.
At the end of the two day shoot, around 1:30 in the morning, I still didn’t have the shot I needed for the cover of the single. David was happy to stay and wait until I got what I needed, even though it meant more of the blue face paint, and the entire crew stayed to help - hair, make-up, wardrobe, lighting, etc.
Afterwards, word came back that David and Coco were very pleased with the photos. So much so that they used dozens of them for the single, including the image shown in this exhibition. This is my favourite shot as it looks just like David Bowie as we imagine him; sophisticated, cool, urbane, a little dangerous, a touch different.
I was given a black and white photograph printed on matte paper - David Bowie’s management wanted some colour put into it to create the cover for ‘Ziggy Stardust’. I also did the cover for his previous LP, Hunky Dory. This was also a black and white photo that I coloured up in the same way. Perhaps this is why the label decided that the Ziggy cover would be similar? I applied the colour using photo-dyes with an airbrush (a De Vilbiss Super 93).The lettering for the front cover (which isn’t included on this print) was letraset (rub-down transfer lettering) - a very hands-on way of doing things, but in 1972 that was the way things were done. No Mac computers in those days!
I was working on the back cover one evening at my studio, which at the time was in Covent Garden, London when I received a phone call from David asking how the cover art was going. I told him I had finished the front and was working on the back cover photograph. He was very excited hearing that, having no idea there was an image for the back cover. He asked me what the image was, and said that he was really looking forward to seeing it. From that you can assume David didn’t have any real input into the art direction at this stage of the cover. He probably had much more input when the photograph was being shot. The back cover, featuring Bowie in a phone box was done in exactly the same way. Before this album was released, I would bump into David occasionally in the West End of London or meet up in a pub, and he would go totally unnoticed.Within a matter of months from the release of ‘Ziggy Stardust’, he became a mega-star and would get mobbed if he appeared anywhere in public.
I first photographed David Bowie at the Middle Earth Club, Covent Garden in 1968. I got talking to him in the dressing room. I liked him so much that I shot his mime act. After that I photographed him in many other locations from my parent’s house and Beckenham Arts Lab, to the Roundhouse and the London Palladium. He was a good friend until 1970.
I mainly shot him performing or rehearsing - it wasn’t work it was play. Sometimes he would make a suggestion …. ‘Let’s do one like ‘With the Beatles’ or ‘I need a passport photo, let’s do a really bad one’. My favourite shot is the one at Beckenham Arts Lab with an audience of just 20 people.
Etched in my memory is the day I drove him and Angie to Wolverhampton with two big speakers strapped onto the roof of his late father’s Fiat 500. Every time a truck overtook us the windage pushed us towards the hard shoulder. Then after the gig we drove back in the dark …. and lived.
I photographed David between 1974 and 1999 in Cleveland, Ohio. I loved photographing him as because he was trained in acting and mime he always gave a fantastic visual performance.
In 1978, he wasn’t granting photo passes but the promoter let me in early on the condition I photographed the stage set-up for him. He told me to just get lost in the venue and he wouldn’t acknowledge I was there. When the concert filled up, people were kind enough to let me lean into them so that I could stand in the centre aisle, and attempt to blend in and photograph David. He had bouncers onstage whose sole purpose was to spot photographers, jump into the crowd and take away their film. I went for the longest time not being spotted, then David saw me! Put his hands on his hips and wiggled his finger at me like “no, no, no” but he was smiling. He called off the bouncers and let me shoot the entire show. That was heaven.
This 1983 shot is amongst my favourite 3 or 4 I have ever taken in 42 years of shooting. I just love the attitude of this shot, and the fact that you can’t tell it is from a live performance. I was able to give David a framed copy of this photo in 1991, when he opened for Nine Inch Nails. What a lovely gentleman he was. About 4 to 6 weeks later, I got a letter from Switzerland in the mail. Opened it and it was a handwritten “thank you” note from David for the photograph, with apologies for his tardiness in sending the thank you!
As an artist, he was always recreating himself and striving for the next…..many musicians and bands don’t do that. They find their “hit” sound; and stay there because that’s what got them the hit and the fame and the money. Bowie was a true artist, always creating and searching and doing with his music as well as his look and theatrics. That made me so appreciate him as it was so rare. Fearless. His charisma, stage presence, style and look, made him a joy to photograph.
David Bowie was the definitive male re-inventor of rock. Others may have instigated it but Bowie re-invigorated music with every character or costume change. His alter egos such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke reflect perfectly just two of the many disparate sides of music that he mastered, rock ‘n’ roll & jazz soul; Ziggy’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ was the Hyde to his mild mannered Dr Jekyll of ‘Young Americans‘ or ‘Wild Is The Wind’.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to photograph many of my musical heroes, few have had the stage presence of David Bowie. Someone once famously said that you could feel Elvis’s presence in the parking lot when he arrived at the studio to record. The same was true of Bowie on stage.
I shot him performing one of his last concerts in the UK as part of his ‘Reality Tour’ in 2003 and he still looked fantastic, holding an entire arena captive with a single smile or flick of the hair. He was still the essence of virility. Here was a man who’d always kept one step in front of everyone else. At this stage he seemed comfortable in his own skin, that of David Bowie and had no problem referring to his diary of songs without a costume or identity change.
Even a decade after his famous TOTP performance of ‘Starman’, openly draping himself over Mick Ronson (surely THE most iconic performance on that iconic show), he was the golden boy of the phenomenon that was the emerging MTV. His videos for ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘China Girl’ were as popular as any of the bands making a living from this new way of “visual touring”.
A decade after that I was lucky enough to see Bowie perform in the same studio as the then world conquering Oasis on Jools Holland and although everyone was enraptured by them, they, as I, were left in awe of the resurgent Bowie..
Sadly we are the ones left to fall back to Earth after his passing, although, like all great alien messengers, he did leave us with a parting gift; in this case the album ‘Blackstar’. David Bowie’s contribution to music was perfectly summed up, unbeknownst to him, by a deadlocked passerby when they were leaving flowers at the site of his famous ‘Spiders From Mars’ album cover in Heddon Street. All he said says it all “He was a Star, Man”.
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