Mick Rock, the renowned music photographer, famous for his images of David Bowie, Queen, Lou Reed, the Stooges, Sex Pistols, and more, has died. He was 72; a cause of death was not immediately disclosed.
Rock’s death was announced via his official Twitter account on Thursday night. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share our beloved psychedelic renegade Mick Rock has made the Jungian journey to the other side,” the statement reads.
“Those who had the pleasure of existing in his orbit, know that Mick Rock was always so much more than ‘The Man Who Shot The 70s.’ He was a photographic poet – a true force of nature who spent his days doing exactly what he loved, always in his own delightfully outrageous way.”
‘A mythical creature’
“The stars seemed to effortlessly align for Mick when he was behind the camera; feeding off of the unique charisma of his subjects electrified and energized him,” the statement continued. “His intent always intense. His focus always total. A man fascinated with image, he absorbed visual beings through his lens and immersed himself in their art, thus creating some of the most magnificent images rock music has ever seen. To know Mick was to love him. He was a mythical creature; the likes of which we shall never experience again.”
Born Michael David Rock in Hammersmith, England, he got his start in photography while attending college at Cambridge, where he began to document local concerts. Rock met Bowie in 1972, and worked as his official photographer for a time, shooting some of the most iconic photos of Bowie as “Ziggy Stardust”. He produced and directed the music videos for Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” “Jean Genie,” and “John, I’m Only Dancing.”
Rock’s work can also be seen on some of the most memorable album covers in rock, including Reed’s Transformer and Coney Island Baby, Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ Raw Power, Queen’s Queen II, the Ramones’ End of the Century and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll.
Other artists Rock photographed throughout his career include the Misfits, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, the Killers, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age, Daft Punk, Black Keys, Hall & Oates and MGMT. He also wrote a book about his career, Psychedelic Renegades, in 2001.
Leading tributes to the star was Brian May who remembered him for capturing an iconic shot of Queen. The guitarist wrote on his Instagram earlier today: “Sad and shocked to hear of the passing of our friend, photographer Mick Rock – who clicked his shutter to capture that iconic image of us for the QUEEN II cover in 1974, at a time when we were NOT very big stars.
“The Marlene-Dietrich style lighting applied to the four of us (only ONE light source above for the whole group) gave us an enduring image, inspired part of the ‘look’ of our ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video a couple of years later, and has been widely imitated by others over the years since then.
“Mick did much memorable work for David Bowie, and produced images both in the studio and in the live situation. His ouevre will definitely shine on. RIP Mr Rock. Bri.”
‘Just get the bloody picture’
In an interview for author Barney Hoskyns’ 2014 book The Rise of David Bowie, Rock reflected: “I learned early on not to get too hung up on technique: just get the bloody picture! A lot of my early film I processed myself, and a lot of it was grainy because of the low light levels I was working with. I never used a light meter, I just used to guess.
“By the time I was doing studio work – like the Bowie saxophone session in 1973 – I’d acquired a Hasselblad and I was using Polaroid. I do remember [German-American fashion photographer Horst P.] Horst saying that he didn‘t understand modern photographers’ obsession with all the technical stuff. He said, ‘I mostly work with one light and I just move it around till I see what I like.’ And that was kind of a validation of my own non-linear approach.
“The key thing is that I wasn’t inhibited at all,” Rock continued. “When young photographers ask me for advice, I normally just say ‘Follow your obsessions. Try and build up a collection, where the sum total of all the parts is more valuable than the single session.’”