David Bowie

Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive™

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David Bowie

by Brian Duffy
chromogenic print, 1973
7 3/4 in. x 7 3/4 in. (197 mm x 197 mm) image size
Purchased, 2013
Photographs Collection
NPG x137463

Sitterback to top

  • David Bowie (1947-2016), Singer, songwriter, performer and actor. Sitter in 20 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Brian Duffy (1936-2010), Photographer and film producer. Artist or producer associated with 8 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait by photographer Brian Duffy has become one of the most celebrated rock 'n' roll images of all time; a variant pose from the one used on the cover of Aladdin Sane, Bowie's 1973 album and his first UK No 1. The photo shoot took place at Duffy's Primrose Hill studio and it was the result of a collaborative process between Bowie and Duffy, assisted by stylist Celia Philo and make-up artist Pierre La Roche.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Fashion Icons, p. 150
  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 96
  • Rab MacGibbon, National Portrait Gallery: The Collection, p. 103
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 235 Read entry

    Born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London, singer-songwriter David Bowie gained recognition with his single Space Oddity (1969), the release of which coincided with the first moon landing, and achieved international fame with his rock albums The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) and Aladdin Sane (1973). Bowie’s music career has spanned more than four decades, characterised by continual reinvention and experimentation, alongside further achievements as an actor, and he has become one of the most influential figures in modern British popular culture.

    Renowned for his distinctive make-up, futuristic costumes and theatrical performances, Bowie appeared as one of his flamboyant stage alter-egos for the cover of his sixth album, Aladdin Sane. Taken in Brian Duffy’s north London studio, a similar pose to this one, showing Bowie with his eyes closed, was finally used for the cover. It has become one of the most recognisable and celebrated of pop images. Brian Duffy (1936–2010), a fashion, music and advertising photographer who came to prominence during the 1960s, is considered to have defined the era, along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan. He also photographed Bowie for the covers of his albums Lodger (1979) and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980).

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1973back to top

Current affairs

With the international oil crisis, and British coal miners 'working to rule' (a form of partial strike), Prime Minister Edward Heath implements the 'three day week' for industry in order to prolong fuel stocks.

Art and science

Pink Floyd release Dark Side of the Moon. The album opens with the sound of a heartbeat and instead of a set of individual songs, each track merges into the next to create a continuous piece of music. The LP was one of the most commercially successful albums of all time.


The Arab-Israeli conflict continues with the Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria invaded Israel followed shortly by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The conflict lasted for just 18 days before a UN ceasefire was put into place. The events led to an increase in the price of Arab oil, causing economic problems in the West.

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