1966 by David Wedgbury
National Portrait Gallery
David Wedgbury photographed numerous bands and their fashionable followers throughout the mid-sixties, creating a catalogue of figures that speak for themselves. Needing no introduction may lead us to overlook these figures’ portraits; it’s no lie that such a sexy time lent itself to snap photography. But Wedgbury could hardly be dismissed as such a photographer, abundantly clear in this shot of David Bowie. The opulent texture in this photograph makes it intensely compelling; the exquisite clarity of the face, detailing to every last hair, is set in contrast to the richly blurred background. This subtle morphing of shape, tone and light that backs the photograph is quietly, yet consumingly, atmospheric; visually abstract, it creates movement, the teeming energy, behind its statue-still figure in the foreground. Wedgbury’s capturing of David himself is then naturally approached; body emphasised, it is all face and hand, skin exposed in milky grey light, illuminated in comparison to the dark coat that buttons right up to the neck. The cropping of this picture also plays a significant part in this carefully constructed composition; just slightly off centre and looking deliberately, but hardly, to one side, the obvious focus on our protagonist is subtle. Slightly distracted, there is no pretence, just the honesty of aiming to capture beautifully; a happily restrained introduction to one who would become one of music’s most overtly flamboyant artists.