Photo session: Diamond Dogs

David Bowie was photographed by Terry O’Neill for the forthcoming Diamond Dogs album on 30 January 1974.

David Bowie photographed by Terry O'Neill, 30 January 1974

David Bowie photographed by Terry O’Neill, 30 January 1974

Although not ultimately used on the album, O’Neill’s shots were used as promotional material around the release. They featured Bowie, wearing a Spanish Cordoba hat and high-heeled boots, accompanied by a large and imposing Great Dane dog.

Bowie walked into the studio with this giant, beautiful dog. He sat in a chair, all stretched out, with the dog standing next to him. But every time we took a photo, the dog would bark at the strobe light. The dog got so excited by the light, he started to leap at it. That image, with David just sitting there, completely unaffected by this large, imposing, soaring dog, has become one of the most iconic shots in rock-and-roll. I was behind the camera, Bowie was on the chair but everyone else ran.
Terry O’Neill
V&A museum
David Bowie photographed by Terry O'Neill, 30 January 1974

David Bowie photographed by Terry O’Neill, 30 January 1974

I had shot the dog first and then a few frames of Bowie posing in his inimitable way – which was at ease but totally in control. Then I said, ‘What about trying one with you and the dog?’ Just as I started shooting, the bloody dog leapt up into the air towards the camera. It was quite aggressive and I was a bit taken aback, but I kept thinking: ‘Thank God I’m using a wide-angle lens.’ David just sat there throughout. He was totally unfazed.
Terry O’Neill
The Observer, 16 February 2013
David Bowie photographed by Terry O'Neill, 30 January 1974

David Bowie photographed by Terry O’Neill, 30 January 1974

Also present at the shoot was Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, with whom Bowie had had a breakfast meeting earlier in the day.

Peellaert was shortly to publish the acclaimed book Rock Dreams, a collection of artworks showing airbrushed and stylised renditions of musicians, among them a double portrait of Bowie and Lou Reed. Bowie also featured on the cover, alongside John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Mick Jagger.

Mick Jagger had seen Peellaert’s work prior to Rock Dreams’s publication, and had commissioned Peellaert to design the sleeve for the Rolling Stones’ forthcoming album It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll. Jagger mentioned this to Bowie, who moved quickly to secure the artist for his own release.

I’ve caused a lot of discontent because I’ve expressed my admiration for other artists by saying, ‘es, I’ll use that,’ or, ‘Yes, I took this from him and this from her.’ Mick Jagger, for example, is scared to walk into the same room as me even thinking any new idea. He knows I’ll snatch it…

Mick was silly. I mean, he should never shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, “What do you think of this guy?” I told him I thought he was incredible. So I immediately phoned him up. Mick’s learned now, as I’ve said. He will never do that again. You’ve got to be a bastard in this business.

David Bowie
Playboy, September 1976

Bowie already had the cover concept for Diamond Dogs in mind, which was to feature him as half-man, half-canine, and had sketched out some ideas.

During the O’Neill shoot, he was photographed adopting a similar pose to that in a photograph of the singer, dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker, taken in Paris in 1926.

Josephine Baker, 1926

David tricked me into doing the cover artwork. It was only when we were at the session that he finally asked me if I would do a painting for him. The idea was so interesting I couldn’t refuse.
Guy Peellaert, 2000
Last updated: 17 May 2023
Recording: We Are The Dead
Travel: London to Amsterdam
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