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Photographer Pat Pope talks about the time he got to Photograph David Bowie in 1997

March 1st, 2017 | by admin
Photographer Pat Pope talks about the time he got to Photograph David Bowie in 1997

It was 96. I was a 30 year old photographer on the music scene with little possibility of ever shooting the one person I’d loved since I was six. Bowie was in the middle of his drum ’n’ Bass period. Not my favourite but he still looked amazing and was pushing boundaries. I was working for the Prodigy back then and main man Liam Howlett had told me of  Bowie’s phone call asking for Liam’s production expertise. Liam had declined. DECLINED! I was (and still am) a little obsessed.

Early in the year I approached my friend Tania, who worked for a festival, happening in Stratford Upon Avon. Bowie was headlining the first of four nights.

I suggested some kind of photographic studio on site and she mooted a charitable connection with Amnesty International. A project was born. Maybe I would photograph Mr Jones after all.

The time arrived in July. I drove to Stratford only to encounter traffic chaos. It took me three hours to arrive on site. Some people took five or six.

My tent wasn’t erected and Bowie was on site and playing that night. My chances were 0%. The next day all was fine and I spent the next four days grabbing pop stars as they approached the catering tent for two minutes of posing for charity…………but no Bowie. Later in the year we had an exhibition and sold a few pictures and raised some money.

Then they announced the line up for 97.

Bowie to headline again only this time on the Saturday night.

I phoned Tania and suggested we stage this event again.

Bowie’s PR was approached (among many others) and he was on board. Bowie would officially pose for MY CAMERA….I was nervous.

The time came around again. I was on a roll. The first two days had been great and all day Saturday was fun. The sun shone and it was all set to get WAY better.

Bowie was due about seven (and on stage at nine). I closed the tent so I wouldn’t have to share this experience with anyone but my assistant (and best mate) Jim, and Lisa on make up……….time ticked by…….I began sweating. Seven twenty…….he’s not coming. I was despairing……..then suddenly ‘which one’s Pat’ came an oddly familiar voice. I froze.

Pointing to the stool and black background, Bowie sat and posed for my camera. I shot but said virtually nothing by virtue of being terrified. We were eye to eye………in silence. I shot about three films and he got up to leave. I couldn’t believe I’d waited 30 years for this moment and then blown it by saying nothing………….as he and his assistants were leaving, one turned to him and said ‘don’t you need a photo in your costume for tomorrow’s paper?’

‘Oh yes’ he replied. ‘Pat, can you take it……….we’ll pay you’

OMG, I’m shooting Bowie again and I’m being paid to do it……

An hour later he arrived again in his finery (Indian dress and trousers). I had totally relaxed and greeted David as an old friend. We laughed and shot and fooled around (for 15 minutes) until he had to get on stage……….’do you want to join me?’ he suggested. I almost had a coronary on the spot.

I had very little appropriate 35mm film as I wasn’t shooting live but I accepted and escorted him to the stage where I crouched in the shadows and he occasionally gave me a wink. I was ON STAGE with David Bowie and pretending to take photos as my film had long run out.

I hoped this was the beginning of a long close friendship…………it wasn’t …….but it’s a hell of a story to tell.

You can check out Pat’s website here:

Pat has very kindly shared these two previously unseen shots he took of David with us…








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