In 1967, a young David Bowie struck mime-like poses in front of a camera wearing a white cashmere sweater, his blond hair coiffed slightly to the right side of his face. This was Bowie pre–Ziggy Stardust and stardom, shooting the cover for his first album. “I was the only one he knew with a studio camera,” remembers the photographer Gerald Fearnley.
Fearnley is the elder brother to Derek “Dek” Fearnley, who helped Bowie create his eponymous album David Bowie, 1967, which flopped that coming June. It wasn’t just because it hit shelves the same day as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — though the timing certainly didn’t help sales — but because, according to Fearnley, Bowie had yet to emerge as the artist he’s remembered as today: a silhouette of many personas. Ziggy Stardust, perhaps his most iconic and influential alter ego, had plans for Earth — and he brought rock ‘n’ roll with him. By age 68, Bowie had created 26 studio albums and sold an estimated 140 million records worldwide. He died in January of 2016, after losing an 18-month battle with liver cancer.
Fearnley’s never-before-seen portraits of Bowie were stored in the photographer’s attic for years; recently, he and his son decided to revisit the negatives. The photographs are compiled in Fearnley’s new book: Bowie Unseen: Portraits of an Artist As a Young Man, out August 7 from ACC Editions. The images show Bowie alternating between white-cashmere and black-mohair sweaters, paired with zig-zag pants and the occasional painted clown teardrop on his face. In one photo, the singer gently rests his cheek on his palm, wearing a black leather watch band and a satin fedora. “I still have the hat after all these years,” writes Fearnley.
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