Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bowie Unseen: Portraits of an Artist as a Young Man Hardcover – August 7, 2017 by Gerald Fearnley (ACC Art Books / Antique Collectors Club)

This was Bowie pre–Ziggy Stardust and stardom, shooting the cover for his first album. “I was the only one he knew with a studio camera,” remembers the photographer Gerald Fearnley.

The legendary singer, songwriter and actor's life was very much out in the open, but just last year, an unseen series of photographs was released by the famous photographer Gerald Fearnley. The rare photos, taken 50 years ago for Bowie's first album cover shoot, are now being published in a book, released on Aug. 1, titled "Bowie Unseen: Portraits of an Artist as a Young Man

This book is, in a word, charming. The photos in this relatively slim volume show a young man who's both spontaneous yet absolutely conscious of the image he's trying to project; apparently his first real go at it after learning a few things from the great Lindsay Kemp. The editor found great pull quotes from Bowie and Kemp as well as from Mr. Fearnley to accompany the photos.

Mr. Fearnley did a wonderful job with the shoots, and in the short essay that intros the book, comes off as incredibly humble. The photos look terrific for having been in storage for so many years! I've looked at it at least 3 times since I got it, and I've had it for less than a week.

As for the book itself, it's well-bound, the semi-glossy paper feels good and thick, and the the printing of the images themselves (majority B/W with a few colour ones) is excellent, very high-quality. It was obviously all assembled with great care.

Collects original and rare photographs from Bowie's debut album shoot, which were released for the first time as fine art prints in 2016

These pictures show Bowie pre-fame, pre Ziggy Stardust, as a young man unaware of what the future holds

A glimpse at the origins of a late great pop-music icon

In 1967, a 20-year-old David Jones decided to change his name to avoid confusion with the lead singer of the Monkees. He decided on 'Bowie'. By this time, Jones had been playing music for five years, appearing in and out of various bands, singing rock and roll at local youth gatherings, any pub that would have him and even a few weddings. Jones joined the band the Konrads, but then soon left them for the King Bees. After a few more stop and starts, Jones became Bowie and met Derek 'Dek' Fearnley.

David Bowie enlisted Fearnley to help record an album. Reportedly learning by studying the Observer Book of Music, the two young musicians practiced, wrote and hung-out at the home of Fearnley's brother, Gerald.

"My brother always loved music" remembers Gerald Fearnley. "He'd always have people back to the house to practice or write songs. I remember waking-up in the mornings, never knowing who'd be sleeping in the front room. David was often sacked out on the couch. But he was always very polite."

Gerald Fearnley was a working photographer in 1967. "I was a still life photographer, working on my own, in a studio right off of Oxford Street. I don't remember how it happened, but I was enlisted to take photographs of David for the cover. I was probably the only person he knew with a studio and a camera."

When David Bowie by David Bowie was released on June 1, 1967 - the same day as The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - little if anything happened. Nothing charted and the band parted ways.

Now - fifty years since the original photo session and release of David Bowie's debut album - the unseen photos of Gerald Fearnley are presented here for the first time. These whimsical, youthful images capture the artist as a young man only a few years before he'd transform himself into Ziggy Stardust and launch a career that would become one of the most successful and influential in the history of modern music.

But at that time, he was just starting out - creating his first persona; David Bowie.

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