Mick Rock shares unseen photos of David Bowie and Syd Barrett, and how he thinks imagery will be impacted by the crisis

The legendary photographer speaks to It’s Nice That as he donates artwork to an NHS fundraising exhibition featuring Banksy and David Shrigley.

14 April 2020


There’s no shortage of incredible artistic initiatives supporting the globe’s health services, and here in the UK one gallery, West Contemporary, has called on much-loved British artists such as David Shrigley, Banksy and Mick Rock for help in doing its bit. Each artist has donated works to sell to raise money for masks for NHS workers, with Mick Rock sharing five previously unseen photographs from his career documenting pop culture – not to mention collaborating with David Bowie as his official photographer for the Ziggy Stardust era. The images, seen here, show Bowie, Syd Barrett, Bryan Ferry, Freddie Mercury and Kate Moss, and range in date from 1969 to 2002.

“The NHS have always been there for me growing up in the UK and for all members of my family,” Rock says of the reasoning behind his donations. “If this virus is a reminder of anything, it’s how much we need the NHS. They are our lifeline. We owe them every effort we can think of to protect their own lives whilst they are protecting the lives of others.”

Photography is one of the hardest hit disciplines with much of its process off-limits due to vital social distancing measures, as Rock has found himself. “It limits things somewhat,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The range of subjects, locations, etc. I had sessions, exhibitions and books postponed. Of course that applies to anyone who makes their living off the exercise of photography.” His approach and outlook is to remain positive, however, and find a creative challenge in the circumstances, which he believes will give rise to an interesting era of the medium. “If you’ve got a camera and phone, there is always something new to see in the familiar. So we’ll get different kind of imagery from this period in the culture. Sensibilities change with the shifts of history.”


Mick Rock 2020: Freddie Mercury (1974) www.west-contemporary.com

When asked, Rock is hesitant to dish out advice. “Artists are tricky buggers. You can’t give them a mandate like the Nazis did, even if it’s for a good cause. But there’s a lot of room for creativity in this electronic modern world. Lots of tools. Lots of variety. Lots of projection.Tons of room for creative collaborations. But not a lot of room for fresh air! I’m not in the business of telling other artists what to, that’s for certain. However, it is an opportunity, to help the nurses and hospitals by donating prints to organisations that sell them and give the money to the cause.”

See other artworks donated by Banksy, KAWS, The Connor Brothers, Lauren Baker, Charming Baker, Stuart Semple and more on the West Contemporary’s website, available to buy online now, and keep an eye out for further releases every Thursday at 12pm over the next 12 weeks – there will be 70 in total. The pieces will be available to buy online with a portion of profits going to the #masksforNHS fundraising initiative, buying FFP3 masks from HCE and delivering them to hospitals in need.


Mick Rock 2020: Kate Moss (2002) www.west-contemporary.com


Mick Rock 2020: Syd Barrett (1969) www.west-contemporary.com


Mick Rock 2020: Bryan Ferry (1976) www.west-contemporary.com

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Mick Rock 2020: David Bowie (2002) www.west-contemporary.com

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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