Q&A: Rock photo legend Mick Rock stages an exhibit at Confederacy boutique
Debbie Harry. David Bowie. Freddie Mercury. Photographer Mick Rock captured these and other rock legends in indelible images throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
Now the British lens man has mounted a show of some of his most memorable photos at what would seem to be an unlikely venue — Los Feliz's Confederacy fashion boutique. On the other hand, local boutiques have been combining fashion and commerce with art throughout the year, as the Image section reported in August.
We caught up with Rock while he was in town to discuss the show, as well as why the public's fascination with rock's most glammed-out era just won't quit.
All the Rage: You have a new book out, "Mick Rock: Exposed," that precipitated this photo exhibition — what does it cover?
Mick Rock: It really dates from the beginning, from 1969 with Syd Barrett right up to today to Lady Gaga and the Gossip. It runs the gamut. I've done lots of books, but they’ve always been on specific subjects like David Bowie or "Rocky Horror Picture Show." But I have a broader array of tricks.
You're a pretty major guy. Why did you decide to mount a show in a clothing boutique?
I had talked to some galleries. But it struck me — [Confederacy] had Francis Bacon and Francesco Clemente shows. They’re a bit like a Japanese setup. Most of the time art shows are usually done in stores there. Having seen it and seen the space, and seeing that they are serious people, I decided to do it. People said, "You’ll have more fun with these guys." Fun was an important factor.
Do you like doing public appearances?
I don’t mind. I’ve been in this business since college and saw so many friends of mine in the early days — Bryan Ferry, Debbie Harry, David Bowie ... I saw what they had to do as part of their job, to promote. And I'm probably not by nature a shrinking violet.
Do you have favorite images or subjects you've shot?
It’s a bit like who’s your favorite lady friend, isn't it? It was always "whoever I was with yesterday." I love shooting Snoop Dogg. I shot him last year. He’s a hoot. But people want to know about the '70s stuff. David Bowie and Debbie Harry were probably as fine a photo subjects that you’ll ever find under any circumstances. I was very lucky.
Why do you think we're all so obsessed with the look and feel of '70s rock 'n' roll?
It doesn’t go away — I think that's part of it. And rock 'n' roll is no longer as fabulous as it was. It’s not like a rebel outside art form anymore. It's been subsumed by the culture and the ad man. Also I think because when all these characters first showed up in the '70s, the media was so much less. There was time for more mystique to build around these characters. Now [news] is on a couple of million websites in no time at all. But I don’t have any issues with how things are now, I’m happy. I was younger and wilder and more out of control back then. But I’m having a great time nowadays. And people have a lot more respect for photographers.
"Mick Rock: Exposed" will be on view through March 1 at Confederacy, 4661 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 913-3040.
Photo: An early portrait of Madonna. Credit: Mick Rock