“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share our beloved psychedelic renegade Mick Rock has made the Jungian journey to the other side,” the statement read. “Those who had the pleasure of existing in his orbit, know that Mick was always so much more than ‘The Man Who Shot the 70s.’ He was a photographic poet — a true force of nature who spent his days doing exactly what he loved, always in his own delightfully outrageous way.”
Rock documented an era of icons. Between 1972 and 1979, his portraits graced famous album covers and his videography flavored some of the first music videos of the time period. David Bowie, Queen, Blondie, Iggy Pop, and Syd Barrett were among the famed artists he captured. His art is immortalized on the covers of Queen II, Raw Power, and Transformer. But his work resonated well beyond that era, having shot a range of artists, from Snoop Dogg to Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In 1972, one of his photographs of Bowie featured on the cover of Rolling Stone‘s Nov. 9 issue.
In 2017, he spoke to Rolling Stone about the Barnaby Clay-directed documentary about his life and career, Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock. He dedicated the film to “the timeless genius of David Bowie and Lou Reed.”
“They made an important contribution to the development of my own sensibility,” he told Rolling Stone of the dedication to two of his favorite subjects. “Obviously, I’d shot Barrett probably two-and-a-half years before I ever met David, but I do think that [David and Lou] were also good people. When I was having trouble, they both helped me out financially. They bought my prints. When I was in the hospital for my heart bypass surgery, the first flowers that were there waiting for me were from Lou and David. Not only were they my true friends, they were also my true heroes. My admiration for their work is strong.”
While his photography was what put him on the map, his videography also left an indelible mark. He served as Bowie’s official photographer and later videographer. He had reworked one of their earlier clips, “Life on Mars,” with Clay as part of the Creator’s Project in 2011. He also directed videos for Bowie’s “John, I’m Only Dancing”, “Jean Genie”, and “Space Oddity.” In 2011, he was readying an exhibit in New York that featured a retrospective of his work alongside new candids of artists such as Lady Gaga. He spoke to Rolling Stone about his early pre-MTV videos and what he thought of contemporary music videos.
“Some are pretty cool, because they don’t have much of a budget and they are created with a sense of immediacy,” he said. “I’m not overly keen on overproduced videos. It’s about the raw energy and the act itself. That’s what people want to see above all. You don’t need an army of dancers to be effective. Is yours a punk rock bare bones approach? It may come from the fact I’m a stills photographer. I’m interested in keeping it simple with lighting, textures, atmosphere, than bells and whistles. But again, I’m of the era where there wasn’t a lot of budget for that, anyway. Then again, here we are again today! Maybe that’s why I’ve been working a lot again these days!”
He was a prolific artist, whose work spanned decades and generations. The announcement of his death addressed the distinct way in which he captured the essence of his subjects on film.
“The stars seemed to effortlessly align for Mick when he was behind the camera; feeding off of the unique charisma of his subjects electrified an energized him. His intent always intense. His focus always total,” the statement continued. “A man fascinated with image, he absorbed visual beings through his lens and immersed himself in their art, thus creating some of the most magnificent images rock music has ever seen. To know Mick was to love him. He was a mythical creature; the likes of which we shall never experience again.
“Let us not mourn the loss, but instead celebrate the fabulous life and extraordinary career of Michael David Rock.. While you do so in your own way, we must ask that the privacy of his nearest and dearest be respected at this time. Therefore, there will be no further comments.”