Today, the above image of David Bowie which graced his album Aladdin Sane might have been produced with Photoshop. Back in the 60s, everything was a bit more manual.
It was taken by Brian Duffy who along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan, belonged to the London’s West End set, a heady mix of actors, pop stars and criminals who altogether created many iconic images, crafts and events of the 1960s.
Bowie was interested in the Elvis ring which had the letters TCB [taking care of business] as well as a lightning flash. Duffy himself drew on his face the design, using a lipstick to fill in the red. When it was decided that Bowie would have a flash on his face, Duffy drew inspiration from the mundane objects in his studio and, along with make-up artist Pierre La Roche, copied the red and blue flash off a National Panasonic rice cooker lying nearby.
Duffy hadn’t always wanted to be a photographer. In the beginning he had wanted to be a painter and had then ended up working in fashion before a chance glance at a contact sheet persuaded him to change direction. However, in 1979 Duffy decided he no longer wanted to be a photographer; he decided to set fire to his life’s work–the negatives didn’t totally burn, but the bulk of his work was lost.
A new Duffy exhibition opens at the Chris Beetles galley in London on 15 October.
Note: In May 2003, Vogue magazine paid tribute to Bowie by dressing up Kate Moss in some of his original costumes. A nod to the above Duffy photo graced its cover, which Vogue’s editor Alexandra Shulman said was his favourite cover of all time.