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David Bowie by Masayoshi Sukita2018-09-10T11:10:46+00:00

Project Description

1972

Masayoshi Sukita met David Bowie for the first time in London, in 1972.

Before having even heard his music, Sukita saw a striking poster of David Bowie promoting a concert and felt he had to go, purely on the strength of the poster. Sukita admired Bowie’s innovative performance style and related to his cinematic influences, and secured a meeting to present his portfolio to Bowie’s former manager. This was no mean feat, considering his English was very limited. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and a portrait session with Bowie was arranged. This photo-shoot, in the summer of 1972, began a 40-plus-year collaboration between the two artists.

For this shoot, Sukita rented the studio from a Japanese photographer called Hiroshi Yoda and they did the session a week before David’s show at The Rainbow Theatre. Immediately beforehand, Bowie had been at a shoot with David Bailey. The whole session lasted just two hours. Some photographs from the shoot were featured in a popular Japanese fashion magazine, an-an, receiving a great deal of response from the readers.

Sukita-san’s limited edition photographs of David Bowie are available to purchase in a number of size options. You can see price and size options when you select an image or click on the ‘Buy This’ button under each image.

I’m Only Dancing: 8 x 10 inch size only
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Ziggy Profile
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The photograph below, Our True Story Began at the Rainbow Theatre, has special significance for Sukita because it was chosen by David Bowie to blow up to a very large size and display in the foyer of the Rainbow Theatre for his concerts there on 19 and 20 August 1972. As Sukita explains: “I was very pleased about it. It proved that David-san really did like my work, and that was very important to me.” 

Our True Story Began At The Rainbow Theatre
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Smiling And Waving And Looking So Fine
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Time May Change Me
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Prediction
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The First Time I Saw You
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Ziggy Played Guitar
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I Saw You Again In The Rainbow Theatre
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1973

David Bowie – dressed by Yamamoto, styled by Takahashi, photographed by Sukita.

Some of the most well-known and most popular photographs of David Bowie we offer at the gallery are those taken by Masayoshi Sukita in February 1973, and which are referred to as the Watch That Man series. These show David Bowie transformed into a space Samurai with a black, red and blue outfit adapting the aesthetics of the Hakama  – a type of baggy and unstructured trouser worn by Samurai.

You might be forgiven for assuming that these were taken in Japan, given that Sukita-san and the stylist, Yasuko Takahashi, lived in Tokyo and that Bowie-San is wearing an incredible costume by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto—but no—the session took place in New York.

Yasuko ‘Yacco’ Takahashi was the first professional stylist to work in Japan, operating from Tokyo’s Central Apartments complex—housing many of the major names in 1970s Japanese creative industries—fashion, design, music, photography and advertising. Masayoshi Sukita had an office in Central Apartments and worked with Yacco.

Some of the photographs in the Watch That Man series are approaching the end of their editions.

Watch That Man III
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Watch That Man II
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Watch That Man I
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Watch That Man IV
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“A few days before the show at Radio City Music Hall, Bowie did a photo session, a rehearsal and an interview at RCA Studio. He went on to do another rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall. Yacco-San was working as the stylist, running here and there with costumes by Kansai Yamamoto that she’d brought over from Japan. They looked marvellous” 

-Masayoshi Sukita

Keep That ‘Lectric Eye
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Hands To Face
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He’d Blow Our Minds
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Hang Onto Yourself
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Starman
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The Bewlay Brothers
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Loves To Be Loved
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As I Ask You To Focus On
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“My first Japanese tour and what a mad scene that turned out to be. I got carried away enough to perform an impromptu strip and gave my best shot as a 120lb sumo wrestler.”

– David Bowie

Gimme Your Hands
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Bowie And Ronson On The Stage
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It Ain’t Easy
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1977

Masayoshi Sukita photographed David Bowie and Iggy Pop in what proved to be a pivotal year in both their careers.

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.

Photographs from trip would be used on the front cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” album, released in October of that year, and on the front cover of Iggy Pop’s Party album, released a few years later.

David stares
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The “Heroes” contact sheet
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See No Evil
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Hear No Evil
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Speak No Evil
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David Bowie with cigar
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David in a frame
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David Bowie points
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The “Heroes” cover image
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“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.”

-Masayoshi Sukita

The Next Moment?
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Sense Of Doubt
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MY-MY / MY-MY
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V-2 Schneider
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Lost in thought
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Just For One Day
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David Bowie and Iggy Pop in leather jackets
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“I think they found something in each other that they didn’t have themselves. David found wildness in Iggy, Iggy found intelligence in David. It always seemed to me that this was the reason they worked very well with each other. They always looked like they had a great relationship.”

Masayoshi Sukita

Iggy and David press conference
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Tea time in Tokyo
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David rests
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David Bowie with three jackets
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David profile
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And The Story Goes: 8×10 inch size only
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Blackout: 8×10 inch size only
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David Bowie cradles a jacket
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Heroes to Come contact sheet
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1978

Just Watch Me Now
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1980

Kyoto was David Bowie’s favourite city in Japan, one he visited several times during his lifetime.

During one such trip in 1980, Sukita took the opportunity to photograph him on the subway — images in which Bowie looks both otherworldly and strangely at home (his fellow Japanese passengers share his lean look and high cheekbones).

Sukita-san explains, “Every time Bowie comes to Japan, he calls me and says, “I am here. Let’s do a photo session.” Bowie has always loved Eastern culture and he loves Kyoto, the traditional town in Japan. Since I was young, I have always been into Western culture and Bowie is so into Eastern culture, so that’s the bond or relationship we have.”

Saiundo-Japanese Traditional Art Supply Shop
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Telephone box in Kyoto
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Same Old Kyoto
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Hankyu Train
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I can ask for cigarettes in every language.”

David Bowie

Telephone Box
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Platform
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Station To Station
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“We didn’t get a lot of chances to shoot him, because of the lack of time and the problem of distance. Then we came up with an idea to create a mannequin so that we could shoot his portraits anytime we wanted. He was so co-operative in its production. The idea of the doll is that the old skin is flaking off and a new self is re-born. Each portrait I have made this way over 30 years is always a new and unique, timeless piece of work that I cherish.”

Masayoshi Sukita

The Shoot Must Go On
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1983

Let’s Dance
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Major Jack Celliers in Tokyo
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1989

“I bought a copy of the soundtrack to Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence to this photo shoot. When I said I wanted to take a close up of his face, David-san played the films main theme and soon a very quiet yet tastefully profound expression emerged from his face. It was a very moving moment.”

Masayoshi Sukita

Mr Lawrence
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Grey And Blown II
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Grey And Blown I
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Ki
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1996

Running Scared
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2002

“This was the first studio shoot in a long time, these shots were taken to promote David-sans first album for Sony records, Heathen. The checked scarf looks good on him. This is one of my favourite portraits.”

Masayoshi Sukita

Heathen
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Sunday
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Into Tomorrow: 8 x 10 inch size only
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Never Get Old
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“Portraits are always the hardest thing to do seriously. It feels, ultimately, like the deer in the headlights.”

David Bowie

Seek Only Peace
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Seek Only Love
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Slow Burn
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2004

“It’s very hard for me to accept that Sukita-san has been snapping away at me since 1972 but that really is the case.”

David Bowie

Moments & Memories – Reality Tour
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Sets of three 8×10 inch prints at a special price

 Set 1: Across the decades – 1972, 1977 and 2002

Boys Keep Swinging: 8×10 inches
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And The Story Goes: 8×10 inches
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Into Tomorrow: 8×10 inches
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 Set 2: The “Heroes” session

Hear No Evil – 8×10 inches
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See No Evil – 8×10 inches
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Hear No Evil – 8×10 inches
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