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August 29, 2022

The Story Behind the Photo of Twiggy and David Bowie for the Cover of His ‘Pin Ups’ Album, 1973

Pin Ups is the seventh studio album by David Bowie, released on October 19, 1973 through RCA Records. The album was recorded from July to August 1973 at the Château d’Hérouville in Hérouville, France following the completion of the Ziggy Stardust Tour. It was co-produced by Bowie and Ken Scott, marking the final collaboration between the two.

The cover art for the album Pin Ups by David Bowie.

The album cover, featuring Bowie and 1960s supermodel Twiggy, was taken in Paris midway through the sessions and originally intended for Vogue magazine. The photo was taken midway through the sessions at a Paris studio by her then-manager and partner Justin de Villeneuve; he recalled in 2010: “Twiggy and I met Bowie a few times socially, and he mentioned that he wanted to be the first man on the cover of Vogue. I called them to suggest this, with Twiggy, of course, and after a bit of a hoo-ha, they agreed.”

de Villeneure first tried posing Twiggy and Bowie together in a shoulder shot. However, he soon realized that this would not appear balanced as Twiggy was very tanned from a recent holiday in the Bahamas while Bowie’s skin was snow white. The solution was for makeup artist Pierre La Roche to create face masks for each. Twiggy’s face mask was made white to complement Bowie’s skin and Bowie’s face mask was made brown to complement Twiggy’s tan.

“It wasn’t in Vogue but it did make it as a Pin-Up.”

“Bowie was working on Pin Ups in Paris, so we flew there to do the shoot. When Twigs and Bowie were together and lit up, I looked through the viewfinder and realized that David was pure white, whereas Twiggy was tanned from a holiday in Bermuda. There was a moment of panic because I knew it would look bizarre; but the makeup artist suggested drawing masks on them, and this worked out even better.”

de Villeneure first shot a test Polaroid, which he showed Bowie, and then shot the rest of the session with Rolliflex Kodak 6x6 color transparency film. The final product is remarkable (Twiggy looks straight at the camera while Bowie looks straight through it) and is often cited as one of the best rock album covers of all time. The image remains one of Twiggy’s favorite pictures, even though few people today realize that it is actually her with Bowie.

“I remember distinctly that I’d got it with the first shot. It was too good to be true. When I showed Bowie the test Polaroids, he asked if he could use it for the Pin Ups record sleeve. I said: ‘I don’t think so, since this is for Vogue. How many albums do you think you will sell?’ ‘A million,’ he replied. ‘This is your next album cover!’ I said. When I got back to London and told Vogue, they never spoke to me again.”

Contact sheet of Twiggy posing with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his Pin Ups album, 1973.

Twiggy recalled in her autobiography “In Black and White” that she was “really quite nervous” meeting Bowie, but “he immediately put me at ease. He was everything I could have hoped for and more.” During the shoot, Bowie and Twiggy had different skin tones, partially attributed to the latter just returning from holiday in California. The problem was solved by returning Aladdin Sane make-up designer Pierre Laroche, who used make-up masks to balance the tones out.

Twiggy found the final result “enigmatic and strange,” later calling it one of her favorite images and “possibly the most widely distributed photograph ever taken of me.”

The photo was originally slated to appear in Vogue magazine. Twiggy stated that the photo was met with apprehension from Vogue, who didn’t want a man appearing on their front cover, so Bowie opted to use it as the album cover instead; de Villeneuve later recalled Vogue being infuriated by the decision.

Bowie’s management, Mainman launched a billboard campaign on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles for all their artists; Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Mick Ronson… including a contest in which the winner’s face would replace the blank Twiggy. That’s why, in the final version, “Twiggy” looks a bit strange!


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