“Iconic portraits of Bowie…
Everyone had their favourite David Bowie photograph, even David Bowie, but more of that later, says Gordon Munro
Gordon Munro reporting from row DD Wembley Arena on the Isolar Tour 6th May 1976.
…were unavoidable, he was the master of the lens. I have photographed many celebrities but Bowie is the only star who has attained the status of deity on his all too premature demise.” Gavin Evans
Of all the commodities crowding the marketplace on the 5th anniversary of losing the best art teacher we ever had, the must buy is David Bowie Icon from Icon Images.
It’s expensive. Luckily, mine was delivered by Santa and let’s hope you may be fortunate enough to have someone just as attentive and close to deliver you the same.
Not one, not two but, count them, twenty-five photographers who had shot our man during his long career were asked to choose their best work and, brilliantly, were also asked to give their impressions of our man.
Each gave of their best and this is easily the finest tribute a Bowie fan could want since he left us. Excepting perhaps some sort of miraculous resurrection to remind us he really was (is) immortal.
In his introduction to the book, school pal George Underwood gives us our first insight, revealing his childhood mate’s sense of humour, which he retained to the very end.
Speaking to the audience during a one-man show of his work George finished, “David, You’re a star.” Bowie replied with a wry smile. “Yes, I know.”
Badinage but in the same vein as an earlier exchange in the intro in which he which comically remarked on their “physical resemblance being due to the same father.”
Wit and repartee, a leitmotif, as the Shapiro photograph with the Buster Keaton biography testifies.
So Mick Rock connects with him on the Ziggy tour. Chalkie Davies and Kevin Cummins both start their careers by capturing him and their future careers intertwine from that point onwards.
For Chalkie it’s the Hammersmith Odeon and Ziggy Stardust & the Spider from Mars’s folkloric last gig. For Kevin it’s trying to capture Width of a Circle at Manchester Free Trade Hall.
For both, indeed for all of the photographers here, the Bowie sessions are vindication of their chosen profession and, as each testify, a highlight of their career. The quality and the testimony make this book a must.
From Gerald Fearnley showing Bowie’s shift from mime via Clockwork Orange to Kevin Cummins with his tribute shot at Lafayette Avenue in 2016. We are shown more sides, more depth, and more mischievous fun from David at his most chameleon-like. The admission price is more than justified by the work on display between the covers.
“But what was he really like?” I hear you ask.
Steve Schapiro – an activist who was in Washington in 1963, on the Selma Marches of 1965 and present at Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination – later went on to produce the cover art for Bowie’s Berlin era album Low. And here recounts a lovely story that illustrates the depth of the man.
This ability to improvise at will is also repeated in Gavin Evans piece.
You’ll have to buy the book or borrow it from a library - they could do with your support - to find the images and read the thoughts of many legendary photographers, on the man who fell to earth. (Oh, Gordon Munro, you tease you!)
I remember many of the photos from the book appearing in my 1976 programme for the Isolar tour dates at Wembley. Which I’ve long since lost, still, the memories remain.
So all our favourite photos are here from Ziggy right through to nearly, but not quite, the end. (The Jimmy King shots are remarkable).
You will no doubt find your own favourites here but there will be many others that are new to you.
Gavin Evans, who some Leither readers will remember and perhaps know, has his landmark Sshhh session, which has been ripped of many times, included.
He has a wonderful work in here which reveals the man behind the mask, to the extent that the man himself chose it not just for the reception area of his New York office but also for the end of the David Bowie Is book from the V & A exhibition of his work and life.
The guard is down, the man is revealed. Reason enough to buy the book…
All over the pages, you will find The Actor and The Faker at the top of his game. You will also, crucially, find the real man.
Geoff MacCormack’s photos of his school pal Bowie in Soviet Russia were due an exhibition at the Council Museum in Brighton. Covid scuppered that. Related exhibitions were planned too before being pulled.
Souvenirs are available from Brighton - museums need gift shop income just now – and this sumptuous book will see you through Covid then, hopefully, into old age.
Info: David Bowie: Icon @ ACC Art Books