Legendary rock ‘n roll photographer, Mick Rock, recently made a virtual visit to Meredith Baldi ’01 and Scott Seraydarian’s ’90 media literacy class, Producing Peace. The class teaches students how media manipulates its viewers to feel and act in certain ways. As part of the curriculum, students have been studying the ways a story can be told through a single image. As a photographer of musicians ranging from Syd Barret to Janelle Monae, Mick served as an expert on the topic.
While Mick has had a long and illustrious career, he is best known for his photography from the seventies, capturing images of performers like David Bowie, Freddy Mercury, and Lou Reed. Meredith explained that “the glam rock movement, which he captured in photography, reshaped society, identity, and culture. So, there is a way in which his photography actually changed, not just how we saw these celebrities, but what was accepted or celebrated in gender identity and artistic expression. In this way, we wanted to show the students how media doesn’t just capture history, but makes and shapes it. Consequently, the vision and intention of the media-maker has an active role in constructing the narratives we have about society, who we are, and what we celebrate.”
Students were able to participate in a Q&A session with Mick, where his personality, authenticity, and experience shined through in sometimes unexpected advice. When Ellie Gibson ’22 asked him what goes through his mind while producing his images, Mick responded, “Normally at that moment, I would have emptied myself out, you know, just to breathe a bit. The whole point of my preparation was to get to the point of looseness, no judgment. It’s really about the energy. You find the first point of visual impact and start. I don’t think about anything. I like to just play. That’s the point. If you play, pictures will come.”
When Ziekki Femi ’21 asked Mick what he thinks separates photography from other art forms, Mick replied, “Photography is beautiful because it’s so flexible. You can do so many things with it. That’s for me the most important thing. I mean, it is an art form, but we all use it as a means of communication.”
Mick’s lack of expertise when he was first starting out pleasantly surprised students, considering his eventual level of success. He also encouraged them to pick one passion and follow it. His passion was evident throughout his visit and made an impact on the students, and his advice and encouragement will stick with them as well.