10 Questions from Isolation… with Mick Rock

Mick Rock, British born and bred, now living in New York, has been raising funds to help the NHS since the covid-pandemic crisis started. After his initial 5 never-before-seen prints of David Bowie, Kate Moss, Freddie Mercury, Syd Barrett and Bryan Ferry, MICK ROCK has decided to release 5 more exclusive images of pop culture icons and the stories behind each.

UK-based online art gallery and consultancy, West Contemporary, had already planned a show with the photographer. When the crisis hit, they decided to devolve part of the profit to a good cause. The photographs are in limited edition prints, with 20% of the profits devolved to help raise monies for more masks for medical staff. As the health system cries out for more equipment, Mick decided to release a new set of prints – this time of US icons. His hope is to boost the fundraiser further. 

Mick Rock recalls how the NHS are, like many famous faces he has photographed, an important and hugely iconic part of British culture and British history. He also has family living in the UK and says the NHS have always been there for every single person living in the UK:

“The NHS have always been there for me growing up in the UK and for all members of my family, which is why I want to donate 20% of sales of my new works to this amazing fundraiser West Contemporary has set up. If this virus is a reminder of anything, it is how much we need the NHS. They are our lifeline. We owe them every effort we can think of to protect their own lives whilst they are protecting the lives of others.” Mick Rock

FAD MAGAZINE JOAN JETT MICK ROCK
Joan Jett, photographed by MICK ROCK as part of his new images of pop culture icons. 20% of all print sales will go towards West Contemporary’s fundraiser for FFP3 masks for NHS staff. #MasksforNHS. CREDIT MICK ROCK 2020

Featuring Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, The Ramones and Iggy Pop the prints are now onsite with all profits going towards the artist’s UK Gallerist -West Contemporary’s fundraiser for much-needed FFP3 masks for NHS staff. the campaign is marked by the viral hashtag #MasksforNHS. Mick had planned to do a London show of some of his unseen works but owing the Covid -19 pandemic he decided to release the images online and to donate profit to the NHS.

1.> Art organisations and individuals are launching a plethora of online initiatives to stay creative. Yet, a proper economical support has yet to be provided. What does it mean to be included in a project, such as your NHS initiative with West Contemporary?

It is something that I am able to do to be of some help in this surreal situation. I live in New York, so I’m doing things here to generate money to for the cause.

2. Can you share with us what you have done for the project with West Contemporary?
It was Liam West’s idea. He owns West Contemporary. We were discussing what we could do to be useful, and this project popped out of his mouth! I’ve been doing promotion and supplying the prints. He’s organised the UK media and the business of selling.

FAD MAGAZINE Debby Harry, photographed by MICK ROCK
Debbie Harry, photographed by MICK ROCK as part of his new images of pop culture icons. 20% of all print sales will go towards West Contemporary’s fundraiser for FFP3 masks for NHS staff. #MasksforNHS CREDIT MICK ROCK 2020

3. Do you think this crisis will change us, and the art world permanently? Or will we go back to our hectic lives as soon as we will be allowed to?
It seems very likely that it will. Inevitably we’re currently living in a more reflective time. It’s slowed up everything. We’re all mostly at home, and spending even more time on the computer. Human beings have always been very curious and active animals. They can’t help but poke the boundaries of our current situation. A number of gallerists and agents have approached me about doing virtual exhibitions. Definitely a cool idea!

4. What are your thoughts on the (unavoidable?) digital monopoly of art at the moment?
It is what it is! I’ve nothing negative to say about that development. I love the immediacy of the digital world. I really only shoot digitally nowadays. As much as my filmic past has acquired a certain status with the passage of time, I’m more obsessed with the present than the past.

5. How are you reacting to these particular circumstances? What have you learnt from it?
I don’t like that I can’t shoot at the moment… But I do have beautiful cats!! Already in discussions with my dear pal from ‘The Walking Dead’, Norman Reedus, to do a book on cats….and we have publishing interest! We’re both kitty freaks.
I am also obviously deeply curious about how to sort the problems with doing future photo sessions. That’s something of a conundrum. I find shooting very therapeutic. But there will be some restrictions in how to approach life in the camera world. No way to avoid it!

IggyPop MICK ROCK FAD MAGAZINE
Iggy Pop, photographed by MICK ROCK as part of his new images of pop culture icons. 20% of all print sales will go towards West Contemporary’s fundraiser for FFP3 masks for NHS staff. #MasksforNHS CREDIT MICK ROCK 2020

6.How has the current situation impacted how you work — both in the method and ideologically?
Ironically, I’ve been dealing a lot with my archive of late. I don’t like sitting at the computer, but there is clearly a big interest in the days of yore. Starting to promote my photo art more. I’ve been doing it for 30+ years, but the current situation has created a window for me to finally expose it.

7. Do you see any silver linings in this crisis?
There are always slivers of silver linings in life. And it’s giving time for creatives to dream up new avenues to pursue. And I’ve now got time to pursue development of my new retrospective book. It will be entitled ‘SHOT!’, the same as the feature length documentary that Vice Films made about me a couple of years ago, and which is available on Netflix.

FAD MAGAZINE Lou Reed-Hand To Forehead-NYC-1976(c)MickRock
Lou Reed, photographed by MICK ROCK as part of his new images of pop culture icons. 20% of all print sales will go towards West Contemporary’s fundraiser for FFP3 masks for NHS staff. #MasksforNHS. CREDIT MICK ROCK 2020

8. Did you have any show / project planned that has been disrupted by the covid?
Yes, I was supposed to do big exhibitions in Brazil, Milan and Stockholm this year, but of course they’ve been postponed til 2021… and several photo sessions have been postponed/cancelled.

9. What’s on your reading list and what book made the greatest impact on you?
I revisited a book from my years of study called ‘La Peste,’ by the great French novelist Albert Camus. Published 1947, which is strangely relevant again today. It seems a lot of people have rediscovered it.

10. Favourite quarantine Instagram live / podcast / account
Sorry no answer to this one perhaps … west-contemporary.com/buy-art/mick-rock

About Irene Machetti

I am a freelance journalist, who has been collaborating with FAD for over 2 years. I recently founded the column FOOD ART, where I interview artists, and thinkers working around issues related to food. I have a growing interest for contemporary art, especially ceramics, photography, and performance art, in which I specialised at The Courtauld Institute of Art.