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New Documentary Celebrates 'Icon and Icon Maker' Mick Rock

Mick Rock in Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

A new documentary celebrates renowned rock (and Rock Archive) photographer, Mick Rock. Directed by Barnaby Clay it’s called Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock. It’s a look not only at the photographer's work, but also his life, detailing the good times and the bad like Rock’s heart attacks and an overdose that nearly killed him. It’s soundtracked by the Flaming Lips (another band Rock has shot) and Steven Drozd.

Being both photographer and friend of musicians like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Blondie, meant Rock could take intimate and candid photos that have now become seminal images. Images which, along with his photos of the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and Queen have come to define and document an era.

David Bowie looking into a mirror at Haddon Hall, Beckenham in March 1972 during an interview for Club International magazine. © Mick Rock

Rock explains that he got into performance photography when he began to shoot David Bowie in the early years of his career. Bowie wanted a personal photographer to follow him around to give off the aura that he was someone special. Those photos show Bowie putting on makeup or waiting to perform.

Syd Barret photographed at his flat in Earls Court, 1969. © Mick Rock

But along with those vérité backstage moments, Rock has also captured some of the most well-known album covers of all time: Iggy Pop on Raw Power, Lou Reed on Transformer, Queen on Queen II, and Syd Barrett’s solo album among them. He also captured the raucous spirit of the age, like Bowie fellating Mick Ronson’s guitar. And by simply being there he also chronicled a time in music photography when the relationship between photographer and musician seemed a more familiar and intimate one than it is today.

Cover artwork for Raw Power, Iggy Pop's iconic third studio album that was released in February 1973. © Mick Rock

It’s also interesting hearing Rock speak about his trade, referring to himself as an assassin honing in on his targets and getting the killer shot. “Because in the height of the moment that’s what I feel like.” he notes. “That I’m going to take you out.” Other metaphors include being “a thief in the night” a nice nod to the idea of photos stealing people’s souls, itself a very rock n’ roll premise. Although he does note, “I’m not after your soul, I’m after your fucking aura.”

The session in New York was set up in the Autumn of 1978 to accompany an interview that Debbie Harry had done as part of the promotion for the release of ‘Parallel Lines. It was used for the cover of the February 1980 issue of Penthouse Magazine. © Mick Rock

Speaking recently with Dazed about exactly how to capture that aura, Rock also talked about what makes a good photography subject. It helps hugely if you’re Blondie, it seems. “With Debbie, I don’t even think of her as punk – for me, she was just amazing to look at and to photograph. She had a fabulous attitude. She wasn’t precious and she’s still the same today. She isn’t a diva, she’s just a girl in a rock and roll band. Still the most fabulous, and – with all due respect to all of the modern performers – visually, no one has ever matched her. She’s just delicious to photograph. You couldn’t take a bad picture of her.”

Cover artwork for the iconic Queen II album released in 1974. © Mick Rock

Much like that insight, in the documentary you get to hear many of the wish-you-were-there stories and moments behind the images.. All this is recounted by Rock and intercut with archive footage and audio, taking in the “glam rock shimmer of London to the snarl of NYC punk, and deep into the new millennium.”

“We’re on Mick’s private planet for the duration of the film.” notes director Clay. “As the title suggests, this is the ‘Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock’ - a cosmic state where rock n’ roll collides with spirituality, poetry and the mysteries of artistic process.”

David Bowie, Lou Reed & Iggy Pop during a press conference at the Dorchester Hotel, London in July 1972. © Mick Rock

The film is out now in cinemas and available to stream and download online. Watch the trailer below:

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer all these iconic Mick Rock images for sale as limited edition photographic prints, along with many other photos of David BowieIggy Pop, Blondie, the Sex Pistols, The RamonesQueen, and Syd Barrett.

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