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Your Space Or Mine

Mick Rock

Commonly known as “The Man Who Shot the 70s,” legendary photographer Mick Rock has captured some of the greatest musical icons of all time: from David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, to the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Blondie – few can match his scope or vision. And he’s just as active now in his 70s as he was in the actual 70s, with recent shoots involving Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz, The Black Keys, the Flaming Lips, Pharrell, Kings of Leon, Lana Del Rey, Mark Ronson, Benicio Del Toro and Miley Cyrus – to name a mere few.

Rock has been responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of all time – from Queen’s Queen II, Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll, Lou Reed’s Transformer, Coney Island Baby and Rock N Roll Heart as well as Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power, and The Ramones End of the Century.


Words by Liz Aubrey

Whilst busy getting his next book and exhibition together, Rock says he’s thrilled his work is going to appear on billboards throughout the UK. “From the start, I loved the idea of getting my images on the street for everyone to enjoy,” Rock says. It’s great, he adds, that the images are “nice and big.” He adds: “Big is always good with photography.”

Speaking about his collection for the project, Rock talks us through his memories of each shot, giving a unique insight into his style, subjects and career to date from the streets where he grew up to studio shoot settings and beyond.


“I just saw this young boy with a cardboard guitar and thought it would make a great shot. It was on the streets, not in a studio obviously, but I can shoot anything, anyone, anywhere. When I was young and just starting out, I got interested in a photographer and artist called Man Ray. He was one of the prime surrealists in Paris in the 1930s. He could take a picture of some dust, or a bit of dirt, and make it look like art. I guess that inspiration was in here when I took this.

“People sometimes ask me if the boy in this shot is me and I say: ‘Well, that’s a bit of a long shot. It was taken in 1972 when I was a little bit older than that then!’ I took about 5 or 6 frames of him but this one really stood out. There was an album called All the Young Dudes by a band called Mott the Hoople. David Bowie had written that album’s title song and he’d also produced that album. There was a discussion about the picture being used for that, Ian Hunter, the lead singer of Mott The Hoople and I had chatted about it at length. I’m not sure why it didn’t happen – maybe I was out of my fucking mind at the time – but anyway, many years later a band called Third Eye Blind came to me and they wanted to use it.

“The band actually colourised the picture for the final shot. I thought it was great but also kind of a little daft because it’s so great as it is in black and white. But anyway, that album came and went, but the picture lasted.”

Snoop Dogg

“I had such a good time with Snoop. That was taken about a decade ago. He was a character. He’s a very smart guy; he’s everywhere, at least in America nowadays. This was a lengthy session, it wasn’t just on the wing or anything, so it went well into the night on a shoot in L.A. Neither of us minded because it was important for us to get the very best picture we could. We got on very well together. I think he thought I was mad as a hatter but then he respects people like that as I do, so it worked really well.”

“I never studied photography, it’s kind of boring, I just picked up a camera. I find that’s true of quite a lot of musicians – they never studied music. I find in the music business, quite a lot of the photographers never studied photography either. I think too much learning can get in the way. Here, a shot like this happened really naturally and it just worked.”


“Oh, the one where she’s sticking her tongue out, yes. That wasn’t my doing, that was her – all her own direction that. This was taken in 1980 and she wasn’t singing at that time, she was still a dancer. Anyway, a guy I knew who owned a record store in the West Village here in New York. People would come to his store and occasionally he’d bring them up to see me and Madonna was one of them. I had a studio on 32nd and Madison as it was known in those days. One of the reasons I agreed to do this project was because I liked the idea of having these pictures in the streets. I like the idea of getting them out in the streets because like with this shot of Madonna, that’s not one many people have seen. It’s surprising and different.”

Lenny Kravitz

“This is the most recent from the collection – it was taken last year, just before COVID hit. He was a very nice man. He was very cool, definitely, and he looks the part. He’s a visual artist too, he’s very talented. I said to him, ‘You’re not very American, because you’re incredibly quiet,’ and he was very polite which I think is captured in that shot. I know his mother was quite a well-known television actress and his father was a jazz musician but he told me he spent a long time in the Bahamas when he was growing up with his grandmother. He told me, ‘Well, my grandmother was very on top of manners, so we learnt them. It was like having a British grandmother.’ He told me that she wouldn’t put up with any bad language or anything. He’s one of the most famous guitarists and musicians in the world, but very quiet and very polite and I wanted to show that with this shot.”

“We talked about beforehand, what we were going to do. Quite often, my pictures of Syd Barrett come up in conversation and it did here. Lenny said: ‘Can we do one a bit reminiscent of one of your Syd Barrett pictures on the street?’ So we did. I took those pictures a long fucking time ago, but people still like them. We took a lot this day but this one was my favourite of him. There were a couple of others – one where he was coming straight at the camera and one walking to side. This side shot was my favourite; I don’t think he’d ever been photographed like that before.”

Syd Barrett

“It’s such an early photo. I had recently acquired a wide-angled lens and that, I think, helped on the day I went and shot Syd. He’d moved back to Cambridge and was living in his mother’s house by now. Those are the pictures of him we shot here. And, of course, I have pictures of him and me together on that shoot. I don’t really know how it all happened, it just kept rolling along from what I remember.

“I remember talking to David Bowie about it. I met David and we got on well but part of how I got to know David really well was because when I first met him, he wanted to talk about Syd – he knew Syd was a friend of mine. Through those conversations, we became great friends and I met Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. They were still quite underground at that time in 1972 but it’s strange it all linked up to my friendship with Syd and these photos.

“This picture is probably the most famous one from that session. Somebody once figured out what the album was on the record player next to Syd. I think it was a jazz record because he liked people like John Coltrane especially, so it was great to capture him next to that. His talent always shone through but talent is a funny thing. There are a lot of casualties from talent and I have lot of dead friends out there because of talent.”

Debbie Harry

“That was taken in 1978 in the US in the autumn and it was like the hype build-up for ‘Heart of Glass.’ It was like one of those sessions where everything just went right, although we’d never shot before together actually. There’s nothing in the background in this which I like – I rarely use props. There’s no distraction then and the focus is on the artist, like here. My relationship with the camera and the subject is a very direct thing and maybe that’s reflected in this picture.

“Some people ask me how I get a perfect shot and use ones like this as an example but I really don’t know the answer; I don’t think about it beyond the moment. Somehow, I’ve had a 50-year career. I often think ‘How the fuck did that happen, Mick?’ I don’t even know why I became a photographer. I think the LSD I liked in those far off hippie days opened up my third eye.”


Read more about the project here: Celebrating the music industry and the photographers who turn its artists into icons

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