Mick Rock‘s 256-page paperback version of “Exposed” is currently stuck in customs, but that hasn’t made the legendary rock’n’roll photographer slow down. As he told us on a tour of his exhibition of the same name—on now at NYC’s SUMO Gallery—he’s been busy “buggering about” with some of his iconic photos. For his classic Lou Reed image that graces the cover of Transformer, for example, Rock re-imagined his best friend of 40 years in magenta and “even learned to screen-print.” His rarely seen, experimental photo art encompasses the basement of SUMO, while upstairs hosts the classic photos we’ve come to immediately recognize as his work.
All of his friends are there, shown in their essence, as Rock always managed to capture them: Ronnie Wood having a scuffle with the police, Andy Warhol as Santa Claus (who was apparently so drunk they could barely get him in the costume), a shirtless Iggy Pop doing a back-bend on stage, John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig (although he loved Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as well), Debbie Harry completely covered up for a 1980 cover of Penthouse, Syd Barrett lying on a defunct car he traded in a swap, Mötley Crüe in the bath, Davie Bowie on a train, “praying” in front of a window and made up as Ziggy Stardust. It’s all there as Rock witnessed it.
Although it’s clear from our time with Rock that if you were to bump into him on the street he would happily tell you all about his days as “The Man Who Shot the ’70s,” this is likely an experience few will seldom gain. Instead, we can continue to live vicariously through his photos, which serve as relics of a bygone, intimate era. As he explains of the pre-iPhone epoch, it was mostly just him back in those days, and if he hadn’t taken all of those photos, they simply wouldn’t exist.
The reissued tome now features an early-aughts Kate Moss on the cover (with a reference to Davie Bowie who features on the hardback version), and includes some of Rock’s photo art as well as an amalgam of quintessential and surprising images. The coinciding exhibition is on view at SUMO through 19 October 2014 (with the possibility of an extension).
Lead images by Karen Day, image of Syd Barrett courtesy of Mick Rock