‘The thing about the photographs is that there is no smell or sound and in sense it tells the truth and yet it is a lie’ - Brian Duffy
Brian Duffy or ‘Duffy’ as he was known was one of the leading photographers of the twentieth century. For eight years, between 1972–1980 he worked with David Bowie on five separate occasions and helped shape and influence his changing personas across the decade; we are delighted for the first time to be able to share some of his incredible prints here
Duffy first came into prominence during the swinging sixties when together with fellow fashion photographers David Bailey & Terence Donovan, Norman Parkinson nicknamed the three ‘The Black Trinity’, as they were friends and rivals and became known for their dynamic photography that shaped a generation.
Beginning his career as a fashion designer Duffy soon moved into photography and his understanding of design and eye for detail ensured he worked for all the top fashion magazines around the world. He claimed he did his best fashion work with French Elle where his creative and artistic freedom was allowed to flourish.
In 1972 he was asked to work on his first shoot with David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust persona.
This first series of photographs were shot in Duffy's studio in London. Bowie is wearing a two piece quilted suit designed by Freddie Burretti for the 1972 Ziggy Stardust tour. A tour that saw Bowie visit the United Kingdom, North America & Japan, and successfully promoted the studio album The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
This image, one of a number from the same shoot, is available to buy here
David and Duffy had an instant rapport and Duffy’s most famous photograph dates from their second shoot together. The iconic and revolutionary cover of David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane, is a shot that became the defining look of Bowie’s long career, and has been referred to as the Mona Lisa of pop.
Chris Duffy, Duffy’s son, recalled in a recent interview with AnOther Magazine, that the famous red and blue lightning bolt which is painted across Bowie’s face was, in fact, inspired by the logo on rice cooker in the studio kitchen. ‘I remember David sitting in front of that with Pierre Laroche (make-up artist), and they had obviously talked about using this flash. Well Pierre started to apply this tiny little flash on his face and when Duffy saw it he said ‘No, not like fucking that, like this.’ He literally drew it right across his face and said to Pierre, ‘Now, fill that in.’
When asked about the iconic shoot Duffy said ‘ “Talking about a creative session is like talking about a boxing match. It happened because there was a little bit of magic in the room that night. I’ll say it myself, it’s a fucking great cover.”
This Aladdin Sane contact sheet was taken from the original 1973 negatives. Apart from the Kodak Ektachrome colourfilm, Duffy also shot two rolls of black and white film. This contact sheet was put together by Duffy's son Chris and includes the original colour album cover image. It is available to buy here
The David Bowie Aladdin Sane image was digitally remastered to create this black and white negative format by Chris Duffy in 2012 and is still as recognisable as the original. It is available to buy here
Duffy and Bowie continued to work together on three more occasions during the pivotal years of Bowie’s career.
The next sessions were Thin White Duke in New Mexico while Bowie was on locations shooting the movie ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ and the very technical shot for the 1979 Lodger album.
Duffy's final shoot was for the Scary Monsters album in 1980 which was Bowie's 14th studio album. In this he is wearing a costume designed by Natasha Kornilof. Bowie asked her to make him the 'most beautiful clown in the circus'. The bleached out look is supposed to symbolise the discarding of Bowie's old personae.
This wonderful collection of prints clearly demonstrates that when the king of glam was assuming and discarding extraordinary personas, Duffy was capturing them all. Sir Peter Blake described his work as 'a wonderful collection of thought provoking, exemplary images that resonate just as powerfully today as when they were first made' - we couldn't agree more!