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Mick Rock

A Lifetime of Shooting Stars

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share our beloved psychedelic renegade has made the Jungian journey to the other side,” the statement read on November 19, 2022, the day after legendary rock music photographer Mick Rock left the planet. The iconic photographer is often called one of the most famous.

A poetic man with a handsome exterior, great wit, and charming personality, he first picked up a 35MM in a “bit of an inebriated state”, and began photographing the woman alongside him. While the flirtation was brief, the thrilling rush of the weight of the camera in his hands made for a much more compelling desire. “My ambition was not to be a great photographer (though that certainly would have been a worthy stance). It was a lust to embrace anything that startled or energized me.”

BowieSax © MickRock | licensed by WHIRL Magazine

“I went backstage, asked if I could take a couple of pictures and he joked about my name – and I joked back that my name was actually my name, and his, of course, wasn’t. And we got on. Then I went back to his place in Beckenham a couple of days later for our first real session.” — Mick Rock

Rock, born in Hammersmith, England, often claimed that destiny was his calling; to have the Rock moniker during the emergence of the genre in the 1960’s was prophetic. It was also a time when photographers were beginning to be seen as well, with Rock’s intense images becoming iconic as soon as he shot them. 


In his cleverly written, often laugh-out-loud, autobiography, SHOT! By ROCK, he recalls stories of the moments of the images, the touching, and hilarious. The irreverence and wisdom of his personal perspective on life is expertly expressed, his use of words as iconic as his images. “I am not in the business of documenting or revealing personalities. I am in the business of freezing shadows and bottling auras.”


Rock is the prototype immersion artist, although neither he nor the public knew it at the time. Bowie, Syd Barett, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Madonna, Bob Marley, and the cast of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Rock shot them all, most of them for the first time. And they all welcomed him gladly into his world because he fit in, he was one of them, those on-the-edge renegades. “For my sins in a former life, I’ve been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time with musicians in this life. Of course, I love them.”

Nathalie Rock 2018 © MickRock | licensed by WHIRL Magazine

He became friends with them, of course, getting the rare peaks into the paparazzi-free moments, and that earned him deep respect in the music industry. His images are among the most well-known and beloved. Because of the mutual respect between the celebrities and this special photographer, the images give us genuine insights into the particular moment in time when Rock set up the shot, pressed the camera button, and breathed. 


A beautiful image requires both vulnerability and intrigue. It has to be relatable, rememberable, remarkable. Rock spent decades perfecting his craft, becoming the best.

“You want to shock people with a bit of mystery and beauty. That’s my favorite kind of shocking.” — Mick Rock

MADONNA NYC 1980 © MickRock | licensed by WHIRL Magazine

Mick Rock Tells the Back Story Behind the Iconic Photo of Madonna

One of his top 5 photos, Mick Rock tells the story behind the lens of this famous shot:


“This was a curious one. There was a guy called Bleecker Bob who had a store in the West Village called ‘Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies.’ In my early years in New York, he would sometimes bring aspiring singers to my studio on Madison Ave. and 32nd. I would take snaps of all of them and [Madonna] came up one summer evening. She seemed very ambitious. I recall her being friendly but mostly curious, just having a look around. I don’t recall her being obnoxious in any way, she was just young. She was curious about Lou Reed and Bowie. Everyone wanted to know about David. 

This is 1980, so she’d only just about got here. I don’t know if she was even doing music at this time because she came to New York to dance. The shot didn’t take very long, it’s not constructed. I wasn’t telling her, ‘Baby, stick your tongue out’. She did all that. She’d do whatever it takes to get a bit of attention. 


For years I never thought much of this picture. It’s not one of these apocalyptic shots of her, like I shot of some other people. On the other hand, I see why people like it because she’s so raw. Not in an unpleasant way, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m very happy to have got this Polaroid now that she’s a big spirit in the sky. I mean, does she rank up there with the big ones? In a way, she does. Not so much for the music but for the way she put herself over. This was at a time in the eighties when it was so unbelievably sexist in music, so you’ve got to respect her. It’s not easy. I don’t think she ever had a drug problem. She was fueled by ambition, god bless her. There’s about another five of these polaroids and I can’t find them. I’ve got to find the rest of them because this is the stuff that people love.”


Madonna, PPG Paints Arena, August 7. Ticket information at

Debbie Harry Smile © MickRock | licensed by WHIRL Magazine
Rocky Horror © MickRock | licensed by WHIRL Magazine


The visual autobiography of an icon

Newly released, this deluxe monograph is filled with Rock’s signature, color-saturated photography and legendary subjects, along with new memories from Mick to go along with them.


Born in 1948 in Hammersmith, London, Michael Rock rose through the London rock scene of the late sixties and seventies en route to becoming one of the most iconic rock and pop photographers of all time.


Mick was both photographer and friend to some of the most dynamic and enthralling musical acts and stars in rock history, and Shot! by Rock contains amazing and amusing behind-the-scenes stories of musicians from Mick Jagger to Miley Cyrus; from Queen to Lana Del Ray; from David Bowie to Snoop Dogg, and well beyond.


Mick hand-selected photos and contributed brand new stories from his amazing career. This unforgettable book serves as a monument to Mick’s brilliant fifty-year career and astounding life.


View more of Mick’s work at:

“My allegiance was always to the act. I wanted them to be happy. I wasn’t owned by a magazine or a record label.” — Mick Rock

To read more…

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by Christine McMahon Tumpson

 All photos courtesy of the Estate of Mick Rock


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