Back in 1967, David Bowie was struggling to make his mark. His debut self-titled album failed to chart, and he was a few years away from his brilliant reemergence with Space Oddity. However, one thing that would live forever in the memories of his fans would be a series of quite incredible images taken by Gerald Fearnley.
Fearnley said of meeting the 20-year-old David Bowie: “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.”
Apart from taking the cover shot of the aforementioned chart flop, the photos Fearnley managed to soon-to-become-legend David remained unpublished for such a long time but offer a glimpse into a moment in time for a timeless icon.
“My brother always loved music,” remembers 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.”
Having been learning mime with the incredible Lindsey Kemp, Bowie chose to use these new-found skills, as well as his natural affability in front of the camera to create the images. “Mime is a marvellous medium,” Bowie told Melody Maker in 1969. “It requires a lot of concentration on the part of the audience.”
The images aren’t quite what we think of when remembering the ever-changing pop-chameleon. They offer us a certain innocence and a bristling bright-eyed hope that, although won’t see David achieve success immediately, will ensure that his desire and fire is never extinguished.
The images, which collects original and rare photographs from Bowie’s debut album shoot, were released for the first time as fine art prints in 2016 and offered a glimpse into the origins of an icon through Fearnley’s book ‘Bowie Unseen’.
Take a look below at the beginning of a legend.