David Bowie’s Rise as Ziggy Stardust Documented in a New 300-Page Photo Book

Great rock pho­tog­ra­phers of the sev­en­ties often cap­tured their sub­jects at their mood­i­est, as in Pen­nie Smith’s pen­sive tour pho­tos of the Clash, or Kevin Cum­mins’ stark, some­times explo­sive pho­tos of Joy Divi­sion. These were bands best shot in black and white. Punk looked back to the rock of the fifties in its high-con­trast sim­plic­i­ty. But the ear­ly sev­en­ties belonged to glam—or, more accu­rate­ly, belonged to Zig­gy Star­dust, a char­ac­ter who demand­ed to be cap­tured in full-col­or.

Mick Rock was just the pho­tog­ra­ph­er to frame the alien space rock opera in bril­liant reds, greens, and blues. Zig­gy was sev­er­al parts T‑Rex swag­ger and riffage, Sun Ra out­er-space per­sona, Lind­say Kemp kabu­ki mime, and Bauhaus-inspired cos­tum­ing.

Get­ting all of this in his shots of Bowie as Zig­gy earned Rock the nick­name “the man who shot the sev­en­ties.” His “career took off along­side Bowie’s,” writes Kris­ten Richard at Men­tal Floss, “and between 1972 and 1973, Rock was the musician’s go-to pho­tog­ra­ph­er and video­g­ra­ph­er.”

More than that, Rock is almost as respon­si­ble for Zig­gy Star­dust’s rise as Bowie him­self, giv­en the way his pho­tos spread the mythos through print media of the time and became icon­ic dig­i­tal images that still define Bowie’s career. When we think of Zig­gy Star­dust, it’s more than like­ly we are think­ing of an image shot by Mick Rock. Bowie’s “cre­ative part­ner” com­piled his pho­tographs in 2015, “with Bowie’s bless­ing,” and they will soon be pub­lished in a new, 300-page book by Taschen.

“You’ll find pho­tographs of Bowie both on stage and behind the scenes,” Richard notes, “giv­ing fans an up-close look at the trans­for­ma­tive performer’s life on the road as he honed his dar­ing new per­sona.” That per­sona upend­ed what it meant to be a rock star, and opened doors for oth­ers to push into new per­for­ma­tive ter­ri­to­ry. “Rock’s glam imagery toyed with the idea of mas­culin­i­ty,” writes Christo­pher Mosley of a recent exhi­bi­tion in Dal­las. For exam­ple, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er “avoid­ed a tough-guy image with the group Queen by encour­ag­ing singer Fred­die Mer­cury to pose in a man­ner sim­i­lar to that of an old still of Ger­man silent film star, Mar­lene Diet­rich.”

Nei­ther Mer­cury nor Bowie need­ed per­mis­sion to chal­lenge rock’s het­ero­nor­ma­tiv­i­ty, but Rock drew out of them the per­fect pos­es to turn their stage per­sonas into super­heroes. No rock star before Bowie had ever looked so gor­geous­ly oth­er­world­ly, an image we remem­ber thanks in large part to Mick Rock. Order a copy of The Rise of David Bowie, 1972–1973 here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Stream David Bowie’s Com­plete Discog­ra­phy in a 19-Hour Playlist: From His Very First Record­ings to His Last

David Bowie Picks His 12 Favorite David Bowie Songs: Lis­ten to Them Online

David Bowie Became Zig­gy Star­dust 48 Years Ago This Week: Watch Orig­i­nal Footage

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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