GLIMPSES FROM THE SEVENTIES
Since January 10th 2016, when planet Earth lost its less terrestrial citizen, so many tributes, exhibitions, publications, announcements in his honour have begun rolling in. The publishing companies have obviously tried to exploit the situation, even though not all the books that have been published and printed after David Bowie’s death are the result of market demand or even opportunism. Sometimes, it has been a sad coincidence. In both cases, anyway, it has turned out to be a welcome opportunity for fans, and, when the product is made with accuracy and professionalism, it can also become an assessment of their career for photographers, or at least an interesting focus on a particular period in the British singer’s career.
It is (partly) the case of this new book; it collects the best photos of David in the Seventies by Gijsbert Hanekroot. The Dutch photographer had organized a solo show in Groninger, and, by chance, the opening fell on the 14th of January, at the same time with the exhibition David Bowie Is – but above all, just a few days after Bowie’s death. It was during the vernissage of the exhibition that Hanekroot and the archivist Sebastiaan Vos decided to work together to publish THE SEVENTIES.
The name of this photographer maybe doesn’t ring a bell with the Thin White Duke’s Italian fans, but from the end of the 60s to the beginning of the 80s, Gijsbert Hanekroot photographed an incredible number of great musicians: the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Neil Young, Chet Baker, Carlos Santana… He is one of the artists who tightened the indissoluble tie between photography and rock music, a great portraitist who shot many beautiful photos (especially in black and white), publishing them above all in his country, but also in the rest of Europe and the world.
This photographic book on its glossy paperback cover has a rather peculiar photo of David. Amsterdam, February 21, 1974: it is one of the five dates in which Hanekroot photographs the alien of rock’n’roll. The singer wears decidedly eccentric clothes: a long, almost feminine overcoat, a Spanish hat, a purse, and has an odd smile which contrasts with his right eye, visibly damaged by pinkeye. In those days in Holland, Bowie was in transformation, in his Halloween Jack’s pirate clothes; he also made a virtue out of necessity, wearing a black eyepatch over the damaged eye. He was given an award for his album Ziggy Stardust, while he was sipping a typical Dutch liqueur drunk by the fishermen, sitting next to Angie and their son Zowie. In this photograph he looks satisfied with his new success, self assured, master of his art, still not overpowered by the American obsessions.
This book differentiates itself from other photographic books for a peculiarity. The designer Sybren Kuiper (who edited also Abba… Zappa Seventies Rock Photography, Hanekroot’s previous volume), has chosen a unique format: some pages are foldable, others are smaller, and the effect is rather interesting. Hanekroot explained to me that the editor wanted to highlight the subject’s dynamism and changes, his multifaceted personality, with an effect which reminded a movie to the reader. It is a real special effect, which gives rise to an odd yet fascinating overlapping of pictures and costumes. The result is particularly brilliant in the first section dedicated to Ziggy Stardust on the stage at Earls Court in 1973 (wonderful in his kabuki costume with a cloak), or in the pages reproducing the shots on the set of the semiofficial Rebel Rebel video, the promo filmed in a television studio in Hilversum. Also remarkable is the section in which Hanekroot captures the Thin White Duke live in Rotterdam in May 1976.
The product, as we were saying before, is really well done. The price is very reasonable, but not easy to find in Italian bookshops. In addition to the photos, you can read a short biography and two other contributions (in English, Dutch and French), all by Sebastiaan Vos. In the last piece, he explains to us with great enthusiasm and passion why David Bowie Is For Ever and Ever. His notes on the photographic sessions are very accurate and include tracklists and other details of the concerts.
All that is left to say is that having this book is really worth it, also because most of the photos are totally unpublished.
(translation by Rachele Mura)