Mick Rock is a legendary photographer who has captured many equally legendary musicians. He started his career in the ’70s, and has since captured the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen, Mick Jagger, Father John Misty, Karen O. Rock and many, more. Rock and his work is the subject of a documentary directed by Barnaby Clay entitled SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The verbose title is apt.
The documentary is a pretty solid piece of work focusing primarily on the formative years of Rock’s career, from his initial use of an unloaded camera while under the influence of drugs. It also provides a look at how he prepares for a photo shoot these days, following a severe heart attack in 1996 and some behind the scenes footage of a shoot with Father John Misty. Embedded throughout is a recreation of his near fatal heart attack and how it has changed his life. Rock avoids narcotic substances now — they were a tool for him to see everything or essentially get in the zone for a photo shoot. Now, he prepares for a shoot with a piece of tech that covers his eyes and provides visual stimulation. Oh and he also stands on his head.
Whatever the techniques he uses to prepare himself, Rock undeniably remains in high esteem as a photographer and as a friend of musicians. His early work with Bowie and Reed — many photos, videos and interviews of each are utilized heavily in the film — paved the way for even more work and so many iconic album covers. As in demand as he was, Rock couldn’t be everywhere. Offered two opportunities, he passed on joining Bowie in Berlin and instead took off to New York to join Reed.
From a photographer’s perspective, glimpsing Rock’s works, including the places he stores his treasured archive, is an amazing view into rock history. Images like those of Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger encountering the police (not the band with Gordon Sumner), Queen’s second album cover, Debbie Harry of Blondie or Daft Punk, have become so ubiquitous that one never thinks of the work that went into each photo. (Or, in the case of the first one, the luck of being in the right place at the wrong time.) SHOT! informs the viewer of Rock’s troubled but tireless career and the indelible images he’s captured of rock legends.
An epic after party followed the premiere at the Dream Downtown hotel where a reunited Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a rotating set of special guests, including Marky Ramone, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Sky Ferreira and Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello, joined them to perform covers of classic rock songs from Reed, Bowie, the Ramones, Prince, Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and the Stooges. Photos and the setlist from the wild event are below.