I think David Bowie first hit my radar screen in ninth grade, when a girl in my in 5th period art class told me that she’d gone to one of his concerts and was convinced that he’d made eye contact with her from the stage. She used to moon over the cover of Young Americans, reserving special admiration for the two slender sliver bracelets Bowie wore on his left wrist.
I like a number of Bowie’s songs, but I confess that my interest in him has always been primarily visual, not aural. His shape-shifting personas over the years–Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke among them–have always intrigued; the man couldn’t be bland or commonplace if he tried. And his much commented upon androgyny is very often downright beautiful.
So I was excited to hear that London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is mounting an exhibit called David Bowie is…., described as an exploration of “the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film.” (You can read a review by fellow blogger, The Exhibitionologist, here). When I went to the web site to read more about it, I was gobsmacked by this gorgeous photograph: Wow!
The picture was taken by Canadian photographer John Rowlands on Bowie’s Station To Station Tour (during The Thin White Duke era), at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, in 1976. It’s often referred to as the ‘Archer’ shot: Bowie apparently would shoot an imaginary arrow as a signal to his lighting engineer to kill the lights in the arena.
Rowlands, who took the shot about 30 feet from the stage with a Hasselblad, had this to say: “It’s very nice — the subtlety in the sleeve and the detail of the spiff of hair at the front. It was a $6,000…camera that took the picture so I have to compliment the camera for being that good. I’ve seen many other images of that exact same thing from various angles taken with various cameras. I am very glad I had a Hasselblad that day. It’s my favourite photograph of my 53 years in the rock and roll business.”
On very first viewing, it became one of my favorites, too.
Trivia tidbit: Bowie’s appearance is made even more interesting by a condition called anisocoria, aka unequal pupils. He sustained an injury as a teenager and has a permanently dilated left pupil.