Legendary 70s Music Photographer Mick Rock Has Passed Away at 72

Photo of Mick Rock behind stylized text of his name

Mick Rock, born Michael Edward Chester Smith, who is regarded as one of the most influential British music photographers and is referred to “the man who shot the 70s,” has passed away. He was 72.

Rock photographed a host of some of the most iconic names in rock music, including Queen, T. Rex, Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, Ozzy Osbourne, The Ramones, Joan Jett, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Thin Lizzy, Geordie, Mötley Crüe, and Blondie. Some of the most memorable shots of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust were shot by Rock when he was acting as the musician’s photographer (“acting,” since he was not Bowie’s photographer in an official capacity at the time according to Inside Hook).

He also shot the production stills for The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Rock would become known as “the man who shot the 70s” in an interview with the BBC in 2007. After what is described of years of rock and roll excess, Rock would have heart surgery and a kidney transplant in the 1990s.

“I lived the life,” he said later. “As well as taking the pictures, I lived the life.”

After giving up cigarettes and drugs, he continued his work and photographed modern rock icons like Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus. He published several books of his work, including 2015’s The Rise of David Bowie: 1972-1973. In 2016, he was the subject of the documentary Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock.

Rock’s passing was shared on his official Twitter account:

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share our beloved psychedelic renegade Mick Rock has made the Jungian journey to the other side. Those who had the pleasure of existing in his orbit, know that Mick was always so much more than ‘The Man Who Shot The 70s.’ He was a photographic poet — a true force of nature who spent his days doing exactly what he loved, always in his own delightfully outrageous way.

The stars seemed to effortlessly align for Mick when he was behind the camera; feeding off of the unique charisma of his subjects electrified and energized him. His intent always intense. His focus always total. A man fascinated with image, he absorbed visual being through his lens and immersed himself in their art, thus creating some of the most magnificent images rock music has ever seen. to know Mick was to love him. He was a mythical creature; the likes of which we shall never experience again.

Let us not mourn the loss, but instead celebrate the fabulous life and extraordinary career of Michael David Rock. While you do so in your own way, we must ask that the privacy of his nearest and dearest be respected at this time. Therefore, there will be no further comments.

DPReview’s Gannon Burgett wrote an excellent obituary for Rock for those who want a more detailed look at his legacy. As part of that is the inclusion of a 2015 interview from The Art of Photography’s Ted Forbes that discusses his incredible career.

Rock is survived by his wife Pati and daughter Nathalie.

Image credits: Photo of Mick Rock by Nathalie Rock.