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July 19, 2016

These Rarely Seen Intimate Portraits Capture David Bowie at the Height of His 1970s Glory

In October 2015, photographer Steve Schapiro wrote to David Bowie’s assistant. He asked for a small text contribution from Bowie for a volume of photos that Schapiro intended to publish.

The assistant replied, “David said to wish you all the best with the project. We look forward to the book next Spring!” David Bowie died three months later, on Jan. 10, 2016.

Bowie, by 1974, was evolving yet again in his spectacular journey as one of pop music’s most creative and brilliant minds. A music-writing tour-de-force, Bowie was also widely regarded as a fashion icon, pushing the envelope of sexuality and style. Bowie had introduced the world to Major Tom, lived the life of Ziggy Stardust, and had just launched Aladdin Sane; the albums Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs soon to follow.

Late that year, photographer Steve Schapiro seized upon a rare invitation from Bowie’s manager for a private photo session with the pop star in Los Angeles. The fruit of that day’s collaboration between Bowie and Schapiro would provide some of the most iconic album art and magazine shoots produced that decade, including album covers for the albums Station to Station and Low. The Thin White Duke was ascending.

The book Bowie's cover features an images of Bowie dressed in blue slacks and cropped shirt, painted with diagonal white stripes. Another image from the same shoot was used as the back cover for his Station to Station album in 1976.

These mostly never-before-published images represent Bowie at his most creative and inspired self and offer a rare glimpse into a collaborative process that created phenomenal iconography in the Bowie oeuvre.

“From the moment Bowie arrived, we seemed to hit it off. Incredibly intelligent, calm, and filled with ideas,” remembers Schapiro. “He talked a lot about Aleister Crowley, whose esoteric writings he was heavily into at the time. When David heard that I had photographed Buster Keaton, one of his greatest heroes, we instantly became friends.”

In this previously unpublished photo, David Bowie is seen with goggles and bike. Los Angeles, 1974.

From the photo shoot for People Magazine. "We took portraits against a putrid green background which we both felt was the worst possible color to use as a background for a magazine cover." Los Angeles, 1974.

David Bowie portrait, Los Angeles, 1975. "David relaxed at his house in Los Angeles 1975. I love his hands."

"During the course of this day, he seemed to be trying out new characters, and new attitudes. David took me by surprise when he came out in the red and white striped outfit during the 1974 photo shoot. It was different from what we expected he would be wearing," Los Angeles 1974.

Bowie in his dressing room trailer, combing his hair, on the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth, New Mexico, 1975.

David with cigarette on a break from filming The Man Who Fell to Earth in New Mexico 1975. This became a Rolling Stone cover and a popular image.

Bowie LOW, New Mexico 1975.

Bowie with a microphone shot in Los Angeles in 1975.

An image of Bowie during a break on the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth in New Mexico in 1975.

David Bowie reading the script of The Man Who Fell to Earth in his New Mexico dressing room trailer, 1975.

Los Angeles, 1975.

Los Angeles, 1974.

An image from a photo shoot Bowie and Schapiro did in Los Angeles in 1975.

For this set of photos, Schapiro recalled “David started drawing circles on the background paper and then the Kabbalah Tree of Life diagram on the floor.” They were taken in Los Angeles in 1974.

In the makeup trailer for The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie puts in his cat’s eyes for a scene, in 1975, in New Mexico.

David Bowie photographed in a shirt from the 1974 Los Angeles photo shoot.

Bowie doing target practice on a break from shooting on The Man Who Fell to Earth, New Mexico, 1975.

Bowie in character on the telephone in Los Angeles, 1974.

"He arrived in a simple way, no groupies… very calm and quiet. One of my favorite photos of David." Bowie out of character, Los Angeles, 1975.

David Bowie getting makeup on the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth, New Mexico 1975.

Bowie holding a Buster Keaton book near his face, in his dressing room trailer on The Man Who Fell to Earth, New Mexico 1975.

Los Angeles, 1975.

(Images © Steve Schapiro, from Bowie, powerHouse Books)

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