Mick Rock

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Mick Rock
Born1948 (age 72–73)
London, England

Michael David Rock (born 1948), commonly known as Mick Rock, is an English photographer. He is best known for taking iconic photographs of rock music legends such as Queen, David Bowie, T. Rex, Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Joan Jett, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Thin Lizzy, Mötley Crüe, and Blondie. Often referred to as "The Man Who Shot the Seventies",[1] most of the memorable shots of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust were shot by Rock in his capacity as Bowie's official photographer.

Early life[edit]

Michael David Rock was born in 1948 in Hammersmith, London, the son of David and Joan.[2] He was educated at Emanuel School in London, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, graduating with a degree in Medieval and Modern Languages.[3] While at Cambridge, he developed an interest in 19th century Romantic poetry—principally the works of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Shelley, and Byron—and his first appearance in the press came after he was arrested for marijuana possession.[4][5]


During his time at Cambridge, Rock picked up a friend's camera and started to take pictures of the local rock music scene, acquiring some friends and contacts along the way (including Cambridge native Syd Barrett and Mick Jagger's younger brother Chris).[6][7]

In addition to his work with David Bowie, whom he met in early 1972, Rock is also noted for creating iconic album covers for Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, Waylon Jennings's Lonesome, On'ry and Mean, Lou Reed's Transformer and Coney Island Baby, Iggy Pop and the Stooges' Raw Power, Queen's Queen II (recreated for their classic music video "Bohemian Rhapsody")[1] and Sheer Heart Attack, Geordie's Don't Be Fooled by the Name, the Ramones' End of the Century and Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'n' Roll. He was the chief photographer on the films The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Shortbus. He also produced and directed the music videos "John, I'm Only Dancing", "Jean Genie", "Space Oddity", and "Life on Mars" on Bowie's Sound and Vision DVD collection.

His photo subjects include The Misfits, Snoop Dogg, Air Traffic, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, The Gossip, Lady Gaga, Richard Barone, The Killers, The Scissor Sisters, Michael Bublé, Michael Stipe, Kate Moss, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Chemical Brothers, Janelle Monáe, Queens of the Stone Age, Daft Punk, Kasabian, Snow Patrol, Daniel Merriweather, Black Keys, Hall & Oates, Peter, Bjorn and John, MGMT, Alejandro Escovedo, Pete Yorn, Gavin Degraw, Peaches, Fat Joe, Rhymefest, Nas, Q-Tip, Jane’s Addiction, Tom Stoppard, and old friends Bowie, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Mötley Crüe, Nicos Gun, and Iggy Pop.

Rock received the Diesel U Music Legends Award for his contribution to Music in late 2006.

Rock is so respected by the subjects of his photography that in 2001, when his book Psychedelic Renegades was being published, he was successful in convincing Syd Barrett to personally autograph a special series of 320 books. Barrett had left the music business for good in 1974, had lived privately ever since, declining all interview requests and all contact with any of his fans or people from the music industry, and was notable for intensely disliking being reminded of his previous music career.[8]


Mick Rock has published a series of books, many based on his classic images: A Photographic Record 1969–1980 (Century 22 Books, 1995), Glam: An Eyewitness Account (foreword by David Bowie) (Omnibus Books, 2006), Psychedelic Renegades / Syd Barrett (Genesis Publications, 2002), Moonage Daydream / Ziggy Stardust (with David Bowie) (Genesis Publications), Rock 'n' Roll Eye (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2003), Killer Queen (with Brian May and Roger Taylor) (Genesis Publications, 2003), Picture This / Debbie Harry & Blondie (foreword by Debbie Harry) (Omnibus Books, 2004), Raw Power / Iggy & The Stooges (foreword by Iggy Pop) (Omnibus Books, 2005), Rocky Horror (foreword by Richard O’Brien) (Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, 2006), Classic Queen (Sterling Press, 2007), Tamashii: Mick Rock Meets Kanzaburo (Kabuki Theatre Photos) (Hachette Fujingaho, Japan, 2007), Psychedelic Renegades (Gingko Press, 2007), and Mick Rock Exposed (Chronicle Books, 2010).


Rock has had major exhibitions in London, Liverpool, Berlin, Manchester, New York, Los Angeles, Oslo, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. His 2003 retrospective exhibition of 186 prints at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography was dubbed by the Japanese press as "one of the finest collections of pop art to ever reach these shores."[citation needed] His 150 print exhibition at the Urbis Cultural Centre in Manchester, England in 2005–2006 was voted Manchester's best exhibition for 2006.[citation needed]

An exhibition of his Kate Moss photos (as well as of Debbie Harry, Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Syd Barrett), called "Rock n' Roll" Kate ran from February to June 2009 in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and was praised in the Dutch press as "hot, sexy, totally rock n roll, and probably truer to the real spirit of the Divine Ms Moss than any other photos ever taken of her. They rank up there with the best of Mick's classic imagery. Mick Rock meets Kate Moss, a legendary collision of photographic energies[...]this exhibit is a must-see for all fans who know how to rock!"[citation needed]


Rock was the host of On the Record with Mick Rock, a documentary series on Ovation. The series follows Rock as he travels the country and meets with musicians for a tour of their hometowns, highlighting the people, places and cultural institutions that have been integral in their lives and careers. Each episode features a performance. Guests in the first season include Josh Groban, The Flaming Lips (featuring Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd), Kings of Leon, Patti LaBelle, and Mark Ronson.

The 2016 biographical documentary Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock directed by Barnaby Clay tells the life and journey of iconic rock English photographer, Mick Rock.[9] The documentary is available on Netflix stream as of September 2017.

Personal life[edit]

Rock lives in New York City with his wife and their daughter.


  • 2001: Psychedelic Renegades. Photographs of Syd Barrett. (Genesis Publications)
  • 2002: Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust. ISBN 978-1-84403-380-5. With David Bowie (Genesis Publications)
  • 2003: Killer Queen. Photographs of Queen published as an official signed limited edition book (Genesis Publications)
  • 2004: Picture This: Debbie Harry and Blondie. Foreword by Debbie Harry.
  • 2005: Blood and Glitter. ISBN 978-0-9537479-9-3.
  • 2007: Classic Queen ISBN 978-1-4027-5192-9 (Sterling Publishing)


  • Punk Drunk Love: The Images of Mick Rock (Panoramica)


  1. ^ a b Photographer lives the Rock dream BBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2011
  2. ^ 'Mick Rock', FLATT magazine (Accessed 10 April 2019).
  3. ^ 'Cambridge University Tripos Lists', Times, 26 June 1967.
  4. ^ 'Mick Rock: from "Receiver" to Transformer', andrewpurcell.net, 6 July 2015 (Accessed 10 April 2019).
  5. ^ Once a Caian..., Issue 3, Spring 2006, pp. 16-7. (Accessed 10 April 2019)
  6. ^ 'Gary James' Interview with Photographer Mick Rock', classicbands.com (Accessed 10 April 2019).
  7. ^ 'Mick Rock interview: Shooting David Bowie portraits', Amateur Photographer, 4 December 2016 (Accessed 10 April 2019).
  8. ^ Cavanagh, David (September 2006). "The glory and torment of being Syd Barrett, by David Bowie, David Gilmour, Mick Rock, Joe Boyd, Damon Albarn and more..." Uncut. London. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  9. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3044562

External links[edit]