by Matt Spangler
Photo books flaunting the great faces of rock 'n' roll sometimes seem to outnumber the actual musicians presently vying for their shot. But when one of the last legendary lensmen like Mick Rock takes up the pages, the pictures are worthy of that precious space on your coffee table.
The idea of rock photography itself, following the Internet's democratization of the photographer's star status, will never quite be the same. Rock is among the last of the classic rock photographers, with contemporaries like Danny Clinch, whose own stardom is intrinsically linked to the bands he shot. Arguably the modern-day nightlife photogs Mark "Cobrasnake" Hunter, Last Night's Party and Nicky Digital carry the torch down the path blazed by Rock, but aren't likely to wield the same genre-defining influence as Rock has on the American perception of music.
Celebrated as "The Man Who Shot the '70s," his images help visualize what we know today as rock 'n' roll. A portrait of an unknown David Bowie launched Rock's career in 1972 and he since spent the next four decades capturing the who's who of rock royalty. With a special mix of talent and right-place-at-the-right-time, his career was established.
"London in the late sixties and early seventies was a hotbed of creative interchange. The prevalent hippie philosophy united all manner of artists, musicians, filmmakers, models, designers, actors, writers, and photographers into a unique and fertile community. My timing was excellent. Curiosity and circumstance drew me into the flame of rock 'n' roll." said Rock. The exhibition "Rock: Music" on view at NYC's Morrison Hotel Gallery—aptly located in the former CBGB space—coincides with the launch of Rock's new book, "Exposed: The Faces of Rock 'n' Roll." The exhibition features large format prints of some of the most distinctive music portraits of all time, including rare photographs from sessions with Syd Barrett, Iggy Pop and Bryan Ferry and video art from Dean Holtermann.
"Exposed: The Faces of Rock 'n' Roll" is Rock's latest book and is a retrospective that includes 200 previously unseen and unpublished images from over 40 years of work. It includes images of '70s legends David Bowie, Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Blondie, Queen, Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, Andy Warhol, Rocky Horror and more mixed with the new guard of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Killers and Lady Gaga with a sprinkling of multi-genre heavyweights like Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and Kate Moss.
Soon following the New York opening, the exhibition will move to London at the Idea Generation Gallery and runs concurrently until mid-January 2011. Fitting for a man who helped define the connection between the two cities, with music being one of the relationships defining characteristics. With British bands Radiohead, Coldplay and 2010 Coachella headliners The Gorillaz still serving as stadium selling forces in America, the British invasion defined by the Beatles, Bowie, and partially Mick Rock seems stronger then ever.
As the pages of his book, the party to launch the exhibition was filled with a diverse mix of rockers and artists like Andy Rourke and Harif Guzman. Watching Rock in the pit of the concert shooting with his digital camera, he didn't let his legend restrict his unbridled enthusiasm for English rocker Adam Green as he snapped flashy pics of the pretty young things with a smile on his face. If anything it reveals the secret of many great photographers—most of his famous subjects are his friends.
"Exposed: The Faces of Rock 'n' Roll" sells online from Amazon.