David Bowie

© Armstrong Jones / Reproduced with permission of Trunk Archive

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David Bowie

by Lord Snowdon
gelatin silver print, 1978
14 1/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (362 mm x 297 mm) image size
Given by Antony Charles Robert Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, 2013
Primary Collection
NPG P1855

Sitterback to top

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

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Published in Vogue, September 1978, with an interview by Jonathan Mantle who wrote: 'The ambiguity and mystery of his image have much to do with his ability to keep at least one jump ahead of his audience.'

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 106 Read entry

    Lord Snowdon (1930-2017), who was once married to Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, photographed many celebrities and royalty of his day. The National Portrait Gallery holds a large collection of his work. This portrait of David Bowie (1947-2016), with its sensitive handling of light, shade, pose and framing, celebrates the musician’s androgynous elegance. A man of many guises, Bowie’s breakthrough came with his song Space Oddity (1969). Gaining prominence throughout the 1970s, his ever-evolving musical style and shifting personas were always conceptually informed. Bowie’s albums include The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Diamond Dogs (1974) and Let’s Dance (1983). As an actor, he starred in films that include The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Labyrinth (1986), among others.

  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 97

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Events of 1978back to top

Current affairs

The country is brought to a virtual standstill as workers in the private and public sector strike over the government's decision to restrict wage increases. As more workers joined the strikes rubbish piled up in the streets, petrol stations ran short, and storage space had to be hired for unburied coffins. The period became known as the 'winter of discontent'.

Art and science

Louise Brown from Oldham in Greater Manchester becomes the world's first 'test-tube baby'. The 'in vitro' fertilisation procedure was a scientific breakthrough that has given thousands of infertile couples the opportunity to conceive.
Iris Murdoch wins the Booker prize with her novel. The Sea, the Sea.


Karol Józef Wojtyla becomes Pope John Paul II. He was the only Polish Pope and the first non-Italian Pontiff since the 16th century. During his 26-year pontificate, John Paul was recognised for his efforts to reach out to other religions and his fight against poverty and oppression. He has also, however, been criticised for his conservative attitudes towards divorce, contraception, homosexual marriage and the ordination of women priests.

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