Photo shoot: Pin Ups

The photo shoot for the cover of David Bowie’s Pin Ups took place in Paris on 18 July 1973.

It featured David Bowie and the English model Twiggy. The shoot was not originally intended for the album, but was for fashion magazine Vogue.

Born Lesley Hornby in September 1949, Twiggy was a leading model during the Swinging Sixties. Bowie had namechecked her in the chorus of Aladdin Sane’s ‘Drive-In Saturday’.

He’d done a song called ‘Drive-In Saturday’, and there was a line where he said, ‘She sighed like Twig the Wonder Kid.’ I heard it on the radio and went, ‘Oh my God, David Bowie just mentioned me in a song!’ I rushed out to buy it because I thought maybe I’d misheard it
Toronto Sun, 5 March 2012

A meeting between Bowie and Twiggy was brokered by her manager and former partner, Justin De Villeneuve.

By 1973, we were no longer a couple, but I remained her manager. David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane had just come out, and we loved the line: “Twig the wonder kid.” We met Bowie a few times socially, and he mentioned that he wanted to be the first man on the cover of Vogue. I called them to suggest this, with Twiggy, of course, and after a bit of a hoo-ha, they agreed.
Justin De Villeneuve
The Guardian, 16 May 2012

In fact, Bowie would not have been the first man on the Vogue cover: Helmut Berger and Marisa Berenson had been the cover stars of European editions in July 1970.

Pinups Radio Show cover

Although he wasn’t a professional photographer, De Villeneuve had observed Twiggy at a number of shoots, and believed he could do just as well behind the camera. He contacted the editor of British Vogue, Beatrix Miller, and art director Barney Wan, who agreed to have Bowie and Twiggy on the cover of their magazine.

The shoot took place during a break in the Pin Ups sessions. Twiggy and De Villeneuve were paid £393. Also present was make up artist Pierre Laroche, whom Bowie had retained since his work on the Aladdin Sane cover.

Twigs and I flew to Paris because Bowie was in France, at the Château d’Hérouville, the Honky Chateau, recording Pin Ups. Vogue booked the studio, and all of us converged there. We had a huge entourage – I even had a butler at the time, I’m ashamed to say, as did Bowie. The thing is, Twiggy and I had just come back from a holiday in Bermuda, and so we were both incredibly tanned. And so the picture looked ridiculous, as Twiggy was completely brown, brown as a berry, and he was snow white, deathly white. When he took his shirt off I was actually quite taken aback by how pale he was. He was like a sheet. He really was the Thin White Duke. So the lovely Pierre La Roche worked wonders. I’d always been obsessed by masks, as people do interesting things when they have a mask on. So I asked Pierre to give them both masks, and it was perfect. They both look oddly enigmatic. The cover picture was actually the very first frame I took. I did a couple of Polaroids and then just stormed into it. They got on brilliantly, and it clicked. Thing is, it wasn’t until I looked at Bowie through the lens that I realised he had different coloured eyes. He did have an aura about him, something you could never quite put your finger on. He was always surrounded by lovely-looking girls, wherever you saw him. Girls everywhere. That always made me very intrigued.
Justin De Villeneuve
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

Although the photograph was taken for Vogue, Bowie was so taken with it that he decided it would be perfect for the Pin Ups cover.

I knew Vogue was going to love the picture, but a few days after the shoot Bowie called up and asked if he could use it for his album cover. I asked him how much it was going to sell, and he thought about it for a while and then said, ‘Well, probably about a million.’ So I said to Twigs, ‘Well, I think he can have it then.’ Vogue was furious, and Barney didn’t talk to me for ages. In fact no one from Vogue ever talked to me again. Twiggy and I were in LA a few months later and we were driving down Sunset Boulevard and we saw the cover on a huge billboard, and I turned to Twiggy and said, I think we made the right decision. It sounds silly but I have to say it was one of the most glorious moments of my career.
Justin De Villeneuve
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

The insert which came with initial copies of Pin Ups credited De Villeneuve. It read:

Justin made the photo of ‘Twig the Wonderkid’ and me
Pierre Laroche made the masks
Ray Campbell lettered
Mick Rock put the sleeve together and made the back photos

However, this insert was left out of some later reissues, meaning that the photographer was not always credited on the record.

To this day, so many people think it’s Angie on the cover. The first pressing of the album had a beautiful inner sleeve with all the credits on, which I thought was very slick at the time, but every pressing after that was just a plain inner sleeve, and as they didn’t reprint the cover, there were no credits on it. So not only did they not know I’d taken the photograph, but no one knew it was Twiggy either. But the cover made perfect sense as Pin Ups was an homage to the 60s, all David’s favourite records from ’64 to ’67, and Twiggy was the face of the 60s.
Justin De Villeneuve
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
Last updated: 12 May 2023
Recording: Pin Ups
Recording: Pin Ups
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