LOS ANGELES — Image might not be everything in rock ’n’ roll, but it’s pretty darn key. Few have created the visual lexicon of the genre better than Mick Rock. The still-lanky, London-born lensman’s images of rockers like David Bowie and Deborah Harry have provided the iconography for four decades of fans to worship. Rock sold the world a then-unknown Bowie as Ziggy Stardust; caught a back-bending Iggy Pop in second-skin silver jeans and greasy silver-rimmed eyes, and has been with Lou Reed since “Transformer.”
Circa 1972, when the photographer entered those very early days of glam and punk, he caught the three future gods in black and white in a single photograph he’s since named “The Unholy Trinity.”
“They influenced not only music but Western culture, gender politics, the way we think and act and dress,” Rock said over a vegetarian dinner at the Sunset Marquis. A quadruple bypass eight years ago following years of unapologetically indulging in the hazards of the job has led him to this plate of roasted roots — as well as yoga and near-daily massages.
“Trinity” is among the collection of seminal images on display through May 15 at the Lo-Fi gallery. Co-founder Kelly Cole was one of last Thursday’s opening party co-hosts, along with stylist Arianne Phillips, punk hero Steve Jones, indie music legend Rodney Bingenheimer and DKNY Jeans. There were plenty of old pals with their own rock pedigree, including Holly Woodlawn and Cherry Vanilla from those Reed and Bowie days, Blondie (minus Harry), Annabella Lwin and Leigh Gorman of Bowwowwow, L7’s Jennifer Finch, the Runaways’ Cherie Curie and Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins with his up-and-coming teen rock star daughters, Lola and Diva Dompé of Black Black.
“His photographs give me a great sense of nostalgia, because they’re about what I turned out to be,” gushed Marilyn Manson, who talked to Rock about finally posing for him.
“He really was the fly on the wall for the rest of us,” said Jeremy Scott, who was there with Bernhard Willhelm. “But he was one of them.”
“I’m very antifashion. The minute it’s fashion, it’s not rock ’n’ roll,” explained Rock, whose uniform consists of leather Converse high-tops, skinny jeans, T-shirts and dark sunglasses. “There’s a certain kind of fascism to it all. Fashion. Fascism. They almost share the same root. It’s another attempt to codify. And I can’t have that.”
This story first appeared in the March 29, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Educated at Cambridge, Rock moved to New York City in 1977. He still lives there with his wife, Patsy Quinn, and their 15-year-old daughter, Nathalie Rock. He remains in demand by newer acts like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Killers, or those who can get away with just posing like a rock star, as in a series of glam rock pics of Kate Moss in 2002.
Last week he spent an afternoon shooting Orange, a neo-punk teenage foursome. In quintessential form, Rock hurled cheeky barbs, expletives, anything to rile them up as he switched between his Hasselblad and Canon digital.
As for today’s pop tarts, Rock has little patience. He may have served up some of the sexiest snapshots of all time, but he marks a clear distinction. “I don’t know how to do cheese. Cheese to me is porn. So why do that? Nothing repulses anymore. I need subversion.”