Photographer behind iconic rock images coming to Greenport

Photographer Mick Rock today. (Courtesy of Nathalie Rock)

Photographer Mick Rock today. (Courtesy of Nathalie Rock)

David Bowie. Lou Reed. Iggy Pop. The Sex Pistols.

Mick Rock has photographed all of them and many more.

The British photographer got his start in the early 1970s, photographing the musicians of the time. From there, he went on to shoot dozens of rock album covers, including the iconic “Queen II,” The Ramones’ “End of the Century” and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll.” He was also the principal photographer on the set of the classic film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

His early photographs of a young upstart named David Bowie are the subject of a new book, “Mick Rock. The Rise of David Bowie: 1972-1973,” published by Taschen. Rock will sign copies of the book Saturday, August 6 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the boutique Lido at 132 Main Street in Greenport. 

Rock is known as the “The Man who Shot the Seventies,” but it’s a title he isn’t completely comfortable with.

“It sounds like I suddenly dropped my camera in 1980,” he said.

David Bowie photo courtesy of Mick Rock.

David Bowie photo courtesy of Mick Rock.

In fact, he’s been working ever since, photographing everyone from Michael Stipe of REM to Daft Punk and Lady Gaga. Now living in New York City, Rock has published several books of his renowned photographs and held multiple photo exhibitions around the world.

“The Rise of David Bowie” covers the early part of the rocker’s career, during which Rock toured with him and was his official photographer. This was also the time when Bowie creating his alter-ego, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust.

“I met him in 1972, before the release of Stardust,” Rock said. “The first show I saw, in March 1972, there were maybe 400 people there, then the next show there were a thousand! In between, he had released ‘Starman,’ which became a top-10 single in England and really got things rolling.”

It was also the beginning of a working relationship and friendship between the two that lasted for decades, right up until Bowie’s death in January.

“He was a good friend,” Rock said.

He credits Bowie as being at the head of the 1970s glam rock or glitter rock movement that saw bands dress in flamboyant clothing, wearing make-up and platform shoes. Bands and artists like T-Rex and Gary Glitter in the U.K. and Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls in the U.S. all came from that movement.

Mick Rock and David Bowie together. (Courtesy of Mick ROck)

Mick Rock and David Bowie together. (Courtesy of Mick Rock)

“David felt things out intuitively, the hair, the make-up. Obviously people helped him, but all the decisions were made by him,” Rock said. “The costumes became more sophisticated over time. I shot him for 21 months and in that period he wore over 70 different outfits.”

Everything about Bowie’s look, image and career was carefully planned and created, Rock said. Bowie didn’t accidently fall into the music business, but instead planned every move.

“He cultivated his life, everything down to the smallest details was important to him,” Rock said. “He was amazingly organized. He once showed me all the tapes from his live performances over the years; there were tons of them. He had all these costumes, he collected everything.”

Bowie contributed to the book’s production, helping choose pictures as well as signing some early copies that were sold as a boxed limited edition.

“The last email exchange we had was 10 days before he died,” Rock said. “I told him that the Taschen limited edition was their fastest selling ever and he said, ‘Well, is that surprising, Mick?’ ”

Courtesy of Mick Rock

Courtesy of Mick Rock

Rock also marvels at how Bowie spent his last year, working on the musical “Lazarus” and producing his last album, “Blackstar,” instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself.

“I did not know that he was sick,” Rock said. “But I think he was very brave. He kept working right to the end, whereas if it was me, I’d be buried in some jungle, hanging with some voodoo princess, trying to deal with my issue.”

While Rock’s health regime isn’t quite that exotic, he does take better care of himself these days. Now in his late 60s, Rock follows a strict regimen that includes yoga, regular massages and acupuncture. Rest and relaxation are also important — and that’s how he discovered Greenport several years ago.

“I have friends out there and I like it because it’s sort of low key,” he said. “It’s very easy to run out there. I’m not big about the beach, but I like going out for walks and I love the lavender fields.”

Guests who attend Saturday’s event and purchase Rock’s book can receive 20 percent off the highest-priced item they purchase from Lido (15 percent on rugs) and an additional 10 percent off all other purchases.