Unseen David Bowie Photos by Markus Klinko to Debut at Markowicz Fine Art

David Bowie, Heathen photo shoot, circa 2001.
David Bowie, Heathen photo shoot, circa 2001.
Photo by Markus Klinko

Of all the tributes to David Bowie after his passing this past January 10, lead singer Ian Astbury of the Cult probably said it best: "The sky fell." After all, Bowie even had a constellation named after him. However, Markus Klinko, the photographer who shot the sessions that illustrate the musician's 2003 album Heathen, brings Bowie down to earth with a new exhibition opening in Miami this Friday.

The fashion photographer worked with Bowie's wife, supermodel Iman, and that was how the two met. They formed a friendship. Klinko was shooting the cover for Iman's book I Am Iman, and Bowie tagged along to the photo shoot in 2001. As Bowie watched Klinko edit the images for the book cover, he casually mentioned he was working on a new album and that he might want Klinko to shoot its cover. "I was like, 'Wow, that's really cool,' but many people say things in my business, and I really didn't get my hopes up too much."

Klinko's studio was located less than a mile from the World Trade Center in New York, and after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the proposed photo session slipped far from his mind. Three weeks later, Bowie called him and invited him to his recording studio. 

Excited by the opportunity, Klinko went. He remembers Bowie sitting by the window, smoking cigarettes while his longtime record producer, Tony Visconti, played him the rough mixes of Heathen.

"This was one of the really, really good moments of my career, sitting there listening to some unreleased Bowie music," Klinko recalls. The two scheduled a photo shoot the next day. 

The way Klinko describes it, the daylong session was quite creative. "Some [of the photos] were his ideas, some were mine, some accidentally came together," he says, adding that the concepts behind the images are very much inspired by the meanings of the songs on the album. "It was about no longer believing in God, rejecting Christianity, searching for the real answers," Klinko says. "The blind eye of the actual cover, he was obsessed with the idea. That was totally his idea. That was obviously done in postproduction, but that definitely shows the loss of belief. That's how he explained it."

Album artwork for Heathen, 2002
Album artwork for Heathen, 2002

The album art also features a booklet with iconic Christian imagery defaced, which was added by the album’s designer, Jonathan Barnbrook. Some of the original ideas Klinko and Bowie played with, however, were a bit more subdued. "One of the unseen images is him sitting at a table," Klinko says. "He's holding a cigarette in one hand and a crucifix in the other, and he's looking at it, thinking about it. He's trying to express the struggle — the struggle to believe — and now is kind of rejecting it.

"I don't know the finer details of what he was going through. I'm sure it was an evolution, but that's how I interpreted it. That's what I tried to express, just to show the struggle and to show the search for the real truth."

Other images Klinko shot that never made it into the album booklet include Bowie at a telescope and images with Photoshopped wolves that were later used in a GQ spread.

Longtime Miami-based gallerist Bernard Markowicz and Klinko came up with the idea for the exhibition "Never-Before-Seen Photos of David Bowie." The proceeds will go to Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. Bowie died of cancer after an 18-month battle.

Upcoming Events

"We're gonna have a big auction to benefit them. We believe the right way to present this exhibition is by actually doing good with it," Klinko says. "There's an opportunity here to not just look at Bowie images but also participate in a benefit for cancer research."

The event in Miami is also special because it marks the first time some of these images will be displayed for the public. Markowicz also notes it will include one-of-a-kind Polaroids from the set. The exhibition will then head out on a global tour. 

"The images are going to be revealed only once because they are previously unseen images," Klinko says. "They've never been used. No one has seen them until now."

To see more of these rare images jump through this link to www.markowiczfineart.com.

"Never-Before-Seen Photos of David Bowie"
Friday, February 26, through mid-March at Markowicz Fine Art, 110 NE 40th St., Miami. Private VIP reveal party 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, February 25. 

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter.

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