Mick Rock, wanted rock photographer, dies at 72

Mick Rock, whose striking images of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, as well as more recent stars like Theophilus London and Snoop Dogg, made him one of the most acclaimed rock and pop photographers, died Thursday in a Staten Island hospital. He was 72 years old.

His family posted the news of his death on their website. No cause was given.

Mr. Rock has often been called “the man who photographed the 70s” because of his photographs which captured the rock stars of that blazing decade, both in his native England and in New York. He lived the rock lifestyle as he photographed it, becoming part of the scene inhabited by Mr. Bowie, Mr. Reed and the others.

“I was drawn to the good guys, the bad guys and the bad guys,” he said in “Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock ”, a 2016 documentary about him directed by Barney Clay.

“I lived a very wild life because I hung out with a lot of very wild people,” he added. “And the camera kind of took me by the nose.”

Some of his photographs adorned memorable album covers: Mr. Reed’s faded photo on “Transformer” (1972); the eerily dark image of Queen’s members in “Queen II” (1974), later recreated in the much-loved “Bohemian Rhapsody” music video. Others have captured stars in poses – enigmatic androgynous-looking Mr. Bowie; Mrs. Harry, from the Blondie group, looking like Marilyn Monroe. And still others have captured unattended performances or moments.

“I am not documenting or revealing personalities,” Mr. Rock wrote in a journal early in his career. “I’m in the business of shadow freezing and auras bottling. “

Making friends with the stars of the day, which involved taking the same medications they often took, gave her the kind of access most photographers can only dream of. As Mr. Reed put it in the introduction to one of Mr. Rock’s books, “Mick Rock was so much of a part of things that it was only natural to see him go away and consider him. as invisible. “

But Mr. Rock was not confined 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 led him to adopt a calmer lifestyle. (“All I am is a retired degenerate,” he joked in a 2011 interview with The New York Times.) Over the past decades he had photographed Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Rufus Wainwright and many others.

“Just over a year ago, I sat with you by the window listening to Bowie stories,” Miley Cyrus wrote on Twitter after learning of her death. “It was my honor.”

Mr. Rock has often said that he was destined to have the career he had because of his name: he was born Michael David Rock on November 21, 1948 in London to David and Joan (Gibbs) Rock.

He graduated from Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied modern languages. While a student there, as he said in the documentary, “photography lazily wandered into my life”. He was hanging out in a friend’s room with a companion, and the friend had left a 35-millimeter camera lying around (which turned out to contain no film, although Mr. Rock did not realize it) .

“I was with a young woman in a state of – I think chemical drunkenness is probably the best way to put it,” he told the Daily Telegraph of Britain in 2010, “when I started to run away. I was just playing, but there was something I really liked.

So he got his own camera, with some film, and started taking pictures of friends and friends of friends. A friend he had met early in his stay in Cambridge was Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. Through Mr. Barrett he got to know other musicians, and a few not only asked him to photograph them, but also paid him.

“I suddenly realized that you could make money with this,” Mr. Rock wrote in “Classic Queen,” his 2007 book about his work with this band. “It was great: much better than having a ‘real’ job. “

He began to write for various publications and to illustrate his articles with his own photographs. One musician he came to know was Mr. Bowie, and one particular photo he took in 1972 was a career. On stage at Oxford Town Hall, Mr Bowie mimed a blowjob on guitar from one of his musicians, Mick Ronson, as he performed. Mr. Rock’s moment photo appeared in Melody Maker magazine.

“It was that cliché that put my name on the map,” Mr. Rock wrote in the book Queen. “Suddenly I was in demand and my camera was clearly speaking louder than my words. “

Famous shots of Mr. Reed and Iggy Pop arrived around the same time.

“I took them when Lou and Iggy were relatively unknown, unless you were really very hip,” he told The Telegraph, “but somehow these shots seemed the have defined forever. “

Soon his reputation was such that Queen came to call him.

“I didn’t really know their music, but when they played their album to me, I said, ‘Wow! Ziggy Stardust meets Led Zeppelin! ‘ and that seemed to seal the deal, ”he said.

Mr. Rock moved to New York City in 1977 and immersed himself in the turbulent scene there which included Blondie, the Ramones and other performers. of Scotland in 1995.

“Over the years, Mick Rock has made history with all the musicians and rock stars he has immortalized,” wrote Mrs. Harry in the introduction to Mr. Rock’s book “Debbie Harry and Blondie: Picture This “(2019). “Sometimes a good photoshoot is worth as much as sex. You leave well massaged, satisfied and a little outside of yourself.

Mr. Rock’s marriage to photographer Sheila Rock ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Pati Rock, whom he married in 1997; one daughter, Nathalie Rock; and five siblings, Carol, Jacqueline, Don, Angela and Laura.

Mr. Rock’s work has been featured in various exhibitions. In the book Blondie, he lamented that he had such an impact as a rock photographer that it limited him in some ways.

“Like a hit record for a rock’n’roller, the downside is that a good image, in addition to defining the subject, can limit what others ask the photographer to do,” he said. writing. “I wouldn’t mind filming a politician or an occasional actor (or even a gangster or two), but that’s not how art directors or magazines see me. “

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