“Takes me right back...when you were young”
As we look ahead to the 50th anniversary of the debut David Bowie album, the man responsible for the images that graced the cover has a book of the sessions released via ACC Editions on July 14th.
Here’s an exclusive edited excerpt from Bowie Unseen. Take it away Gerald...
“My brother, Derek, known as ‘Dek’, was a musician. He always had his bass guitar with him and played gigs up until he passed away in 2008. But in the 1960s, we were all just starting out with our lives. Dek would often use my place to stay before or after gigs. He would often bring by a fellow musician into our home. No one knew that one of the musicians would turn out to be David Bowie.”
“They were a good bunch of lads. David, especially, seemed very serious about what he was doing, he seemed trustworthy. He and my brother would often be in the kitchen writing. He used to play with the children, games of Monopoly or teaching them how to play the penny whistle*. David was great with the kids, very pleasant, always polite.”
“I had a studio in town, down near Oxford Street, and Dek and his musician friends would come up from time to time. I remember once I was walking either to or from the studio and I heard somebody shout my name from across the street. I looked up and it was David! He had this great big leather coat on, all the way to his ankles.”
When it came time for the young singer to release his first album, he turned to Fearnley for a series of portraits to be used for publicity. “I don’t remember why I took those photos, probably because I was the only one he knew with a studio and camera. I was as much of a professional photographer as he probably knew back then.”
The portraits Gerald Fearnley took of the young musician certainly portray a controlled studio atmosphere. The young Bowie would foreshadow future characters and future directions, as he painted clown-like teardrops on his face. The poses he would strike in Fearnley’s studio would also give insight into his study of the art of mime. At that time, he was enrolled in classes at the Dance Centre in Covent Garden, taught by Lindsay Kemp. Kemp’s classes focused on improvisation, mime, and avant-garde theatre. Viewing the complete series of images today, 50 years after Gerald worked with Bowie, they show the artist at the very beginnings of understanding how to create striking images, the art of posing—useful techniques that would serve the future icon well.
* One of the tunes David taught Gerald’s children on the penny whistle was the theme song from the television show, The Killing Stones. That tune was actually Tom Hark by Elias And His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes.
Bowie Unseen - Portraits of an Artist as a Young Man by Gerald Fearnley
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: ACC Art Books (14 July 2017)