Mick Rock, whose vivid portrayal of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, and later stars such as Theophilus London and Snoop Dogg made him one of the most famous photographers of rock and pop, died Thursday in Staten Hospital. Island. He was 72 years old.
His family posted the news of his death on his website. No reason was given.
Mr. Rock has often been referred to as “the man who shot the 70s” because of his photographs of the rock stars of that vibrant decade both in his native England and in New York. He led a rock lifestyle when he photographed him, becoming part of a scene populated by Mr. Bowie, Mr. Reed and others.
“I was drawn to good, bad and evil,” he said in “Shot! Psycho-spiritual mantra of rock ”, a documentary about him, shot by Barney Clay in 2016.
“I lived a very loose life because I was hanging out with a lot of very wild people,” he added. “And the camera just pulled me by the nose.”
Some of his photographs have graced memorable album covers: a faded photograph of Mr. Reed from Transformer (1972); the eerily dark image of the Queen members on Queen II (1974), later recreated in the hugely popular video for Bohemian Rhapsody. Others captured the stars in poses – Mr. Bowie looked androgynously mysterious; Miss Harry from the Blondie group, similar to Marilyn Monroe. And still others caught performances or unprotected moments.
“I am not in the business of documenting or disclosing identities,” Mr. Rock wrote in his diary early in his career. “I am in the business of freezing shadows and pouring auras.”
Making friends with the stars of the day, including taking the same medications they often took, gave him access that most photographers can only dream of. As Mr. Reed said in the introduction to one of Mr. Rock’s books, “Mick Rock was such a part of everything that it was only natural for him to vomit and think of him as invisible.”
But Mr. Rock was not limited to one era. He continued to photograph rockers, rappers, and other music personalities for the next 40 years, even after a heart attack in 1996 that forced him to lead a more relaxed lifestyle. (“I’m a newly retired degenerate,” he joked in an interview with The New York Times in 2011.) In recent decades, he has photographed Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Rufus Wainwright and many others.
“About a year ago, I sat with you at the window and listened to Bowie’s stories,” Miley Cyrus wrote on Twitter after learning of his death. “It was my honor.”
Mr. Rock has often said that he was destined to make a career because of his name: he was born Michael David Rock on November 21, 1948 in London in the family of David and Joan (Gibbs) Rock.
He graduated from Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied modern languages. When he was a student there, as he put it in the documentary, “photography wandered lazily into my life.” He was hanging out in a friend’s room with a partner, and the friend left a 35mm camera all over the place (which, as it turned out, had no tape, although Mr.Rock did not realize it).
“I was with a young girl in a state … I think chemical intoxication is probably the best way to express it,” he told The Daily Telegraph of Britain in 2010, “when I started to freak out. I was just playing, but there was something about that that I really liked. “
So he got his own camera with film and started taking pictures of friends and friends of friends. One of the friends he met early in his stay in Cambridge was Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. Through Mr. Barrett, he met other musicians, and some not only asked him to photograph them, but also paid him.
“I suddenly realized that it was possible to make money from it,” Mr. Rock wrote in Classic Queen, his 2007 book about his work with the group. “It was amazing: much better than getting a ‘real’ job.”
He began writing for various publications and illustrated his articles with his own photographs. One of the musicians he met was Mr. Bowie, and one photograph he took in 1972 was taken for a career. On the stage at Oxford City Hall, Mr. Bowie depicted performing fellatio on the guitar of one of his musicians, Mick Ronson, as he played. A photograph of that moment, taken by Mr. Rock, appeared in Melody Maker magazine.
“It was the shot that put my name on the line,” wrote Mr. Rock in the book Queen. “All of a sudden I was in demand and my camera was clearly speaking louder than my words.”
The famous photographs of Mr. Reed and Iggy Pop appeared around the same time.
“I made them when Lou and Iggy were relatively unknown, unless you were really very fashionable,” he told The Telegraph, “but somehow this footage seemed to define them forever.”
Soon his reputation was such that the Queen called.
“I didn’t know much about their music, but when they played their album for me, I said, ‘Wow! Ziggy Stardust meets Led Zeppelin! “and that seemed to seal the deal,” he said.
Mister Rock moved to New York in 1977 and immersed himself in a tumultuous scene featuring Blondie, Ramones and other performers. “I needed a new edge, and I found it in New York City in abundance,” he told The Sunday Herald. Scotland in 1995.
“Mick Rock has made history over the years along with all the musicians and rock stars he has immortalized,” Ms. Harry wrote in the introduction to Mr. Rock’s Debbie Harry and Blondie: Imagine It (2019). “A good photo shoot is sometimes as good as sex. You leave feeling well received with the massage, satisfied and a little out of your mind. “
Mr. Rock’s marriage to photographer Sheila Rock ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife Party Rock, whom he married in 1997; daughter Natalie Rock; and five siblings, Carol, Jacqueline, Don, Angela and Laura.
Mr. Rock’s work has been exhibited at various exhibitions. In The Blondie, he complained that as a rock photographer he had made such an impression on him that it limited him in some ways.
“As with the hit rock and roll hit, the downside is that a great image, beyond defining the subject, can limit what others require of the photographer,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t mind shooting a random politician or actor (or even one or two gangsters), but art directors or magazines look at me that way.”