David Bowie’s Japanese Photographer

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

Got your ticket to the David Bowie Exhibition at the V&A yet? No, me neither. I’m not good at these great blockbuster exhibitions; I can’t cope with the crowds. So instead I took myself off to a small and peaceful exhibition in a gallery in the Piccadilly Arcade (across the road from the Royal Academy) where I passed a happy hour looking at some iconic photos of David Bowie taken by his long-term collaborator, Masayoshi Sukita.

David Bowie 2002

Sukita was born in Kyushu in 1938 and studied photography before moving to Tokyo in 1965 to become a freelance fashion photographer. He visited New York in 1970 and 1971, where he photographed Jimi Hendrix and Marc Bolan, but it was a trip to London in 1972 which led to his first encounter with Bowie and a portrait session that started their forty-year collaboration.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

David Bowie 1972It was Sukita who helped Bowie see and understand Japan when he first visited in 1973.

David Bowie - The same old Kyoto

Following that first Japan visit Bowie collaborated with Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto on costumes for his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane tours. Yamamoto’s work was heavily influenced by traditional kabuki costumes and he brought this influence into his designs for Bowie.

David Bowie 1973This ‘Rites of Spring’ costume is one of the most famous of them.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

David Bowie - Rites of Spring

This is perhaps Sukita’s most famous picture of Bowie – it was used as the cover for the Heroes album in 1977 and is also used on the cover of Bowie’s latest album, The Next Day.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

The photos are all for sale, in limited editions. The prices start at £195 for 8×10 inch ‘special offer’ prints in an edition of a hundred, but for most photos it’s £1,500 for 16×20 inch prints in an edition of thirty or £3,000 for 30×40 inch prints in an edition of ten.

That sounds like serious money to me, but to a Bowie fan in search of some history maybe not.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

For those with less to spend there are T-shirts and bags and free badges.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

The exhibition is free and continues until 30 April at Snap Galleries.

David Bowie - Masayoshi Sukita

15 thoughts on “David Bowie’s Japanese Photographer

  1. This is very interesting and the photographs look brilliant. I am a big David Bowie fan but thought I’d wait until the crowds went down before I ventured into V&A. Will certainly go to this exhibition though – thanks for posting.


  2. 2013, the year of Bowie. I’m kind of a fan so this was interesting.

    Were there any pictures of Bowie in Japan like the umbrella one?

    After Oshima’s passing away I’m tempted to watch Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.


  3. I feel exactly the same about the V&A exhibition, I’ll just wait ’til the summer (if it ever comes!). But in the meantime this looks like a great exhibition to visit, I’m a huge Bowie fan and I love portraiture. Thanks for this post, I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise!


  4. This was the icing on the cake for my son and I – having just been to the V and A exhibition we headed over to the snap gallery – we were made very welcome, enjoyed sharing the photos together – me – a fan for more than 40 years and my 20 year old son – equally a Bowie fan. It was a lovely end to a great day shared together


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