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David Bowie: Behind the Curtain

Nenad Georgievski By

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David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
Andrew Kent
160 Pages
ISBN: 0996058753
Press Syndication Group

Very few musicians have been as documented, analyzed or scrutinized as singer David Bowie. Ever since the 60s, Bowie has spent his entire life in the spotlight and really very few musicians can match or parallel his imaginative and aesthetic influence he has had during his lifetime. An ever evolving and transformative person, he was a master of storytelling and re-invention where the only constant was his dedication to exploring and finding new means of expression. Over the past five decades, the characters he has invented and the constructions of his imaginations have transcended the ordinary boundaries of popular music. His creative vision has been a singular, explosive catalyst for artists in various fields and musicians worldwide. He was like an actor and a conceptualist who like all great actors was managing to disappear into the characters he had invented without losing his creative presence and drama. As such, any period of his life and illustrious career have always been interesting for exploring and researching as his theatricality and visual intuition were key to his appeal on a par with the music from any given era.

Bowie: Behind the Curtain by renowned photographer Andrew Kent is a photo book chronicling one of Bowie's most creative and most daunting periods of his life, the tour Isolar in the support of the iconic Station to Station album presented by the elusive character of the Thin White Duke. Kent was hired by Bowie in 1975 to document Bowie's life in the next two years and much like photographer Mick Rock previously during the days of Ziggy Stardust, he was granted an unfettered access to Bowie's life both on stage and off. Now, four decades after these photographs were made, Kent has finally published his extensive collection of images he has captured of this enigmatic and much-beloved figure. Even though Kent had first taken photographs of Bowie performing at the Soul Train TV program earlier, he was introduced to him by journalist and friend Cameron Crow while recording the Station to Station album, and who also provides the introductory text to this lavishly designed photo book.

During this period fame had brought mixed blessings for him as he was waging battles on several fronts while he was slowly beginning to decline into rock'n'roll hell. The battles on the managerial and matrimonial fronts had taken their tolls on his health and mental well-being. It's the period when he took over the cold and almost lifeless figure of the leering Aryan dilettante, Thin White Duke." As for the most part of 1975 he had worked on director Nicholas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth," and he took many of the characteristics of the character he portrayed in the film —Thomas Jerome and it seems as if he had adopted the alien's attitudes himself. In many interviews, he has referred to this period as a daunting one when he was psychologically and emotionally washed up. His head was filled with pseudo-religious, magical and half-baked political ideas and was hallucinating. There was an incident that Crow had reported about during the interviews he ran with Bowie for Rolling Stone magazine around this time (not reported in the introductory text of this book) during which Bowie had interrupted the interview to pull down a window shade which had a star and the word "Aum" drawn on it, and light a black candle, claiming that he had just seen a body fall from the sky. The Duke was meant to represent the man inside, the strange inner being who looks both coldly and disdainfully upon the warmth of natural human relationships. In public, he began depicting himself as the lonely expatriate, the ducal Englishman yearning to return home to rediscover his roots.

Even though the photographs aren't set in a chronological order the book starts with Bowie's arrival at the Victoria Railway Station in London on 2nd of May 1976 for the performances in the days to follow. As it can be seen from Kent's lenses as he takes photographs from various angles, the station is crowded by fans and photographers that are desperate to get a glimpse of Bowie as he disembarks from the Orient Express train. What follows is a portrayal of moments in Bowie's career immortalized by Kent's watchful eye and lenses in all sorts of settings and situations-as a public persona that meets and greets his fans, meetings with members of the media, and as a mesmerizing performer during the Isolar tour. The performance photographs are simply mesmerizing. Kent has taken photographs from different angles and allows the viewer to witness and feel Bowie's performances as if on stage with him or as seen by fans from the fan pit. Some of these black and white or in color photographs are well known and have already adorned a myriad of biography books and magazine articles.


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