Mick Rock, a British photographer known for capturing some of the most iconic photographs of rock stars and rock bands throughout the 70s, passed away today at the age of 72. ‘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,’ reads a statement shared to Rock’s official social media accounts.
When we look back through history, particularly music history, we often do so in decade-long increments, referring to the different sounds as ‘the 60s’ or ‘the 90s.’ Visually, these decades are remembered through the iconic images captured by hundreds of photographers from around the globe. But in the case of the 70s, there’s an argument to be made that one photographer in particular is responsible for a vast majority of the photographs the world visualizes when they think of musical acts in the 70s — Michael Rock.
Photo: Nathalie Rock pic.twitter.com/I50ofDuO0r
— Mick Rock (@TheRealMickRock) November 19, 2021
Defined as ‘The Man Who Shot the Seventies,’ by BBC News in a 2003 interview, Rock is most known for his iconic images of 70s rock stars, including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, Lou Reed (of Velvet Underground), Syd Barrett (founder of Pink Floyd) and so many more.
Rock was Bowie’s official photographer throughout the early 70s and helped to catapult the singer into the spotlight when he captured a single, controversial image (potentially NSFW) in which Bowie was replicating a sex act on the guitar of Mick Ronson on stage while performing Suffragette City at the Oxford Town Hall in June 1972. That image, which Rock defined as ‘outrageous,’ in the BBC News interview, ‘was the beginning of all the lunacy,’ according to Rock. Despite that image and Rock’s future work that helped propel Bowie and his Ziggy Stardust alter ego into the spotlight, Rock never took credit for the role he played. ’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,’ Rock told BBC News.
In addition to the live performance and portraits Rock captured of 70s music stars, he also photographed images used for some of the most iconic album covers of the 70s and served as the chief photographer on a number of films and music videos, including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus, Space Oddity, Life on Mars and many more.
Throughout the remainder of his 30-year career, Rocks’ subjects spanned genres and generations, capturing images of Joan Jett, Bob Marley, Mötley Crüe, Queens of the Stone Age, Daft Punk, The Misfits, Snow Patrol, Black Keys, Hall & Oates, Nas, Jane’s Addiction, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Richard Barone, Miley Cyrus, Michael Bublé and dozens of others.
‘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,’ reads the statement posted across social media. ‘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 photographs 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.’
Ted Forbes, known as The Art of Photography on YouTube, published a 25-minute interview he had with Mick back in 2015. It’s a fantastic, raw look into the work and life of a man who defined an era and well worth a watch, regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with Rock’s work.
No cause of death was provided in the announcement and it is asked that ‘the privacy of his nearest and dearest be respected at this time.’ As for remembering the legend, the announcement says ‘Let us not mourn the loss, but instead celebrate the fabulous life and extraordinary career of Michael David Rock.’ To that end, Rock In Peace, Mick.