Sukita-san’s photographs will need no introduction to David Bowie aficionados. This exhibition turns the spotlight on 1977, when Sukita-san photographed David Bowie and Iggy Pop in Japan in what proved to be a pivotal year all their careers, in the process creating the cover image for Bowie’s “Heroes” album.
Iggy Pop had released his debut album The Idiot in March 1977, with David Bowie in the producer’s chair, and the following month, both artists visited Tokyo to promote the album. What a time to have been a fly on the wall. Even better to have been in the soup. Masayoshi Sukita, who by then had been working with David Bowie for almost five years, photographed them on their trip: at the airport, at press conferences and in their hotel rooms.
During the trip Sukita-san also arranged an impromptu shoot. The location was a rented studio in Harajuku, Tokyo, which he had borrowed at very short notice from a photographer friend. There was no time for planning. The date is not known for certain but was towards the end of April 1977. The studio was very small—usually it was the setting for close up product shoots—and the two artists took it in turns to sit at the table. David went first. Iggy second. David Bowie tried on a number of leather jackets during the session, while Iggy Pop wore a white shirt and a very conventional sports jacket. The session was finished within two hours. At that point, nobody knew that one of the images from that session would appear on the cover of “Heroes”. That decision came later.
Sukita-san explains: “Rather than sending everything from a shoot, I always selected photographs by myself first, and David understood and respected that this was ‘my way’. So after they left Japan, I selected and printed around ten or so photographs that I liked. I sent them to David. Months later, he asked me if I was happy if one of them was used for cover of his upcoming album. It so happened that the one which both I and David liked the most was used as the "Heroes" album cover image.”
That Harajuku shoot forms the backbone of this new exhibition, which features important images of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, including many available for the first time.