This is a little something I pulled from the vintage prints that I have been archiving at work. Having worked with Duffy for nine months now, I have come to know his photographs extremely well. Aside from those that he burnt back in the early eighties, I have seen every image, on every contact sheet, from every roll of film, from every photo shoot that he ever did. With an archive full of actors, musicians, models and various other celebrities, Duffy was surprised when I told him that out of everything this was probably my favourite photograph.
It’s from a shoot that Duffy did in 1979 for Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album. Being a huge Bowie fan, much of my love for this picture can be easily accounted for. However, this wasn’t the image chosen for Scary Monsters, in fact this image has never before been published or even seen, aside from by those involved in the shoot. Whereas Duffy’s more iconic images such as his Aladdin Sane cover, have been retouched, consciously selected and then admired by many to achieve such status, I love the fact that this one was forgotten for thirty years and for that reason I loved discovering it. I could perhaps align the thrill to that of finding buried treasure. There is something about Bowie’s unperfected facial expression that gets me every time. In a way I find the photograph to be extremely revealing in that it humanizes Bowie. This scornful look which, was not included in his contrived and manufactured public image, lowers him from the elevated, almost superhuman level of the pop/rock star. What we have before us here, is a man in a ridiculous costume looking pretty indifferent.
I asked Duffy what his thoughts on the photograph were :
” You like it? Yes me too. You may have noticed that in many of my male portraits my subjects look as if they’re on the verge of smacking me…. ha! (Duffy acquired a reputation, of which he is proud, for being a bit of an anarchist.) That was my technique, I would say something to rile them or wind them up. It won me some great photographs -full of genuine male aggression. You may also notice that the same can not be said for my female portraits!”
Hmmm this does seem to be the case….
Also watch out for the Duffy documentary (and my own cameo!), which is coming to the BBC in November.