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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Photographer lives the Rock dream
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

David Bowie and Mick Ronson (c) Mick Rock www.mickrock.com
Rock thinks this photograph helped launch his career
Often called the Man Who Shot the Seventies, photographer Mick Rock is best known for his iconic shots of glam rock stars such as David Bowie and Queen.

The artist, whose career has spanned three decades, is now releasing an archive of his material on DVD.

To promote the DVD, Rock has taken a rare step out from the camera to talk candidly about his career and once hedonistic lifestyle

Dressed top to toe in denim, with dark glasses and shoulder length hair, he looks every inch the "rock stars snapper", and indeed he has lived the life of one.

He underwent a quadruple heart bypass 10 years ago, after indulging in a life of debauchery. Drugs were his main vice - but "not heroin" - something he is quick to point out.

"That was God's way of giving me a good smack for being such a naughty boy for too many years," he says.

Mick Rock courtesy of Pati Rock
That was God's way of giving me a good smack for being such a naughty boy for too many years
Mick Rock on his quadruple heart bypass

'Self destructive'

That is all behind him now as he has embarked on a much healthier lifestyle by meditating and participating in yoga.

Looking back he admits he was dicing with death.

"Frankly I was dead in the water at that point. It may have looked self destructive but I wasn't looking to die believe me - I was a compulsive experimenter."

Fortunately for Rock, cleaning up his act has not marred his creativity, as he still gets booked to work with new acts such as The Killers and the Yeah Yeah Yeah's.

After "accidentally" becoming a photographer, Rock cannot believe he has formed a career out of something he loves.

"Maybe it was a way of putting off getting a real job," he says.

He has certainly come a long way since the first time he picked up a camera at university, when he later discovered no film had been inside.

Debbie Harry 1978  (c) Mick Rock www.mickrock.com
Blondie reached number 2 in the charts with Denis in 1978

"That was my first lesson, put film in the camera," he laughs.

His earliest key subject was Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd, but it was only once he started working with Bowie - just before the Ziggy Stardust period - that things really took off for him.

'Outrageous image'

Rock claims one particular photograph, which featured Bowie replicating a sex act while biting Mick Ronson's guitar on stage, helped launch both their careers.

"That was helpful to both him and me because at the time it was regarded as being an outrageous image. In many ways that was the beginning of all the lunacy."

Despite this though, Rock refuses to take any of the credit for Bowie's popularity over the years.

Queen's, Queen II album cover  (c) Mick Rock www.mickrock.com
This album cover inspired Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody video

"I was good at synthesizing and capturing what he [Bowie] was doing. I helped him with the propaganda, but the image and style of Ziggy Stardust was entirely David."

Work followed with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Blondie.

He produced some of the most iconographic album covers of the '70s, including Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, Reed's Transformer and Queen's Queen II, which was recreated for their classic music video Bohemian Rhapsody.


When asked where his inspiration comes from, he tries to explain the process.

"It's more of an intuitive thing rather than a heavily pre-designed thing," he says. "I am in the business of evoking the aura of the people and photographing.

"I'm not necessarily looking for a literal reality, I'm looking for something that's got a bit of magic to it, and quite where that comes from or when that moment is you can't prescribe that."

Iggy Pop's Raw Power album cover  (c) Mick Rock www.mickrock.com
Iggy Pop released Raw Power in 1973

Whatever the reason behind his art, Rock is hoping the collection of work that he selected for his DVD will "transform the TV into an unlimited work of art".

He decided against using a narrative or written explanation to accompany the images which simply fade in and out on the screen.

"This is another application of my pictures that no one could have dreamed about," he says.

Mick Rock's Punk Drunk Love DVD is available now

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