When checking the impact that David Bowie’s performance (as Ziggy Stardust) had in 1972 on the program Top Of The Pops from the BBC, your manager, Tony Defries knew he had a superstar in the making. We also had to convince the RCA label. He consulted his friend Brian Duffy, from whom he had commissioned some photos of the young David Bowie with the visual galaxy of this television appearance. If your next album cover costs £50, don’t…
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When checking the impact that David Bowie’s performance (as Ziggy Stardust) had in 1972 on the program Top Of The Pops from the BBC, your manager, Tony Defries knew he had a superstar in the making. We also had to convince the RCA label. He consulted his friend Brian Duffy, from whom he had commissioned some photos of the young David Bowie with the visual galaxy of this television appearance. If their next album cover cost £50, they wouldn’t pay attention to it; but if I told them that 5,000 had to be invested, they would pay attention. “How do we approach this?” he asked. Duffy, who had just raised the fetish (and budget) bar for her second Pirelli calendar with provocative Allen Jones, replied: “To fatten the bill, you need to do three things: transfer the color to paper [la misma técnica que se utilizaba para las películas en Technicolor], order a plate printed in seven colors in Switzerland instead of four colors and hire me for the design and photo”. And they closed the deal. the cover of Aladdin Sane (1973), the one with a lightning bolt crossing the face of the singer, who turns 50 today, was once considered the Mona Lisa of pop.
From tomorrow until June 25th, at the Official College of Architects of Madrid (COAM) you can see the Hasselbad camera with which that photo was taken, the original color transfer from which numerous replicas have emerged, the proofs of color print or the different photos that were taken to find the iconic closed eyes. They are part of more than 160 original objects from the Duffy Archive collection included in the immersive exhibition. Bowie taken by Duffy, the most ambitious and complete to date with the archive of the English photographer, whose world premiere takes place in Madrid.
Duffy, who with his streetwise, rebellious style defined the Swinging London aesthetic of the 1960s along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan (“the terrible trio,” Cecil Beaton called them), officiated five iconic Bowie sessions in his prodigious decade, between 1972 and 1980, the year Duffy grew tired of her profession. Literally. As he himself recalled in one of his last interviews: “One morning I arrived at the studio and one of my assistants said to me: ‘There’s no more toilet paper.’ I realized that not only was I the president, CEO and major shareholder of my own business, but I also had to take care of the toilet paper.” He fired everyone, took a gallon to the backyard and started burning everything: negatives, contacts, copies… The thick black smoke attracted the authorities, who partially stopped the catastrophe, as his son Chris Duffy (England, 67 years old) remembers today. ). “Fortunately, the original and copies were saved. vintage in Aladdin Sane, but we also don’t know exactly how much of Bowie’s material has been lost. His work with the Beatles or John Lennon, who was a friend and often came to dinner at the house, for example, was destroyed. We only had a few sessions with Lennon.”
Duffy disappeared from the radar. He focused on filming television commercials, producing a movie, and recapturing his passion for furniture restoration; he didn’t pick up a camera again. Fans can see in COAM’s exhibition the Hasselblad 6×6 with which he captured the chameleon of pop for Aladdin Sane It is scary monsters (1980); the Olympus OM2, the Russian Horizont and the medium-format Cannon Dial with which he accompanied him to the New Mexico desert on the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and the Polaroid SX70 beside the poles of the session tenant (1979).
After that day of fury, there were several shoeboxes with cluttered negatives, contact lenses and papers gathering dust under a ladder. Until in 2007, after Duffy was diagnosed with a degenerative lung disease that would end his life in 2010, he allowed the eldest son of the family to bring order. Thus was born the Duffy Archive. Since London gallery Chris Beetles first collected some of these originals in 2009, pieces from the archive have been featured in different shows, including the traveling David Bowie is by Victoria & Albert, which attracted more than two million spectators and where, for the first time, that alternative shot with the asymmetrical gaze of Aladdin Sane fixed on the lens was revealed to the world, which we also find in the COAM printed on a ChromaLuxe aluminum panel. None was as extensive and with as many recovered materials as this one. Along with posters, sketches, notes, drawings, magazine covers… Carlos Alomar, hairdresser Suzi Ronson (responsible for Ziggy Stardust’s hairstyle), photographer Geoff MacCormack and artist Derek Boshier. Also memorabilia closer to Bowie himself, such as contact strips of a very young Angie Bowie, his first wife. Or the drawing for a live album of his first ever Los Angeles show that was never published by his childhood friend George Underwood, responsible for dilating the pupil of one eye forever with a punch in a children’s fight. All seasoned with texts by the former journalist of New Musical Express at the time, Paul Morley.
Chris followed his father into his golden years with Bowie. He grew up watching the celebrity get out of the limousine at his door to stay until the wee hours. Starting out on his own at age 17 learning in a photo lab, he convinced Duffy to let him start his little studio as a cafe boy. That’s when Aladdin Sane was born, on a relaxed Saturday afternoon, in a very nude session, without props or costumes, for which only two reels were shot. “My dad asked him what the record was called, and Bowie told him ‘For the insane lady’ (A crazy boy), and my dad wrote it wrong [la nota está en la expo]. Bowie loved it. David was a big fan of Elvis Presley, they were born on the same day, and he wanted to include a lightning bolt like the one Elvis had on the tail of his private plane and on a ring with the initials TCB [Taking Care of Business]”. The final idea to capture that ray, which was going to be a small detail, came from a Panasonic rice cooker that his mother had given to the photographer and that he had in the kitchen of the studio. His logo was a glare bright red and blue. Duffy himself, who had studied art at Saint Martins, put lipstick on her face. Make-up artist Pierre Laroche (who would end up designing the make-up for the film two years later The Rocky Horror Picture Show) outlined it and artist Philip Castle (author of the original poster design for The Clockwork Orange) he finished it off with an airbrush by adding the Dalinian drop hanging from his bare collarbone.
With a growing career as a photographer, Duffy Jr. would collaborate with Duffy Sr. one by one. for the session tenant (1979), the closing album of the Berlin trilogy, Chris participated in that pre-Photoshop technical engineering with which the singer was suspended on a steel structure to simulate his fall into the void. the session of scary monsters (1980) emerged after the cream from Duffy. Bowie asked him for one last session, their collaborative coda. “At that time my father no longer had his own studio, he asked me to borrow mine, resuming my role as assistant. London was changing, the scene new romantic broke out thanks to The Blitz club and Bowie wanted to visit it in search of the protagonists of the video clip in Ashes to Ashes”, remembers Chris, who at the time was part of the troupe of that little joint, germ of discotheque modern. From him visual As a decaying and progressively battered Pierrot, he owed as much to his teacher Lindsay Kemp as his apprentice Steve Strange and served as the perfect metaphor for him to bid farewell to an era. The time has come to take over. Bowie’s star continued to shine until it dimmed, but by then he had passed the torch of extravagance on to new generations who returned again and again to his mythical aesthetic legacy.
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