David Bowie’s Feathers

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I first met David in 1968 with Hermione Farthingale and John Hutchinson when they were all in the band Feathers. I had just acquired a second hand Hasselblad on HP and was a fledgling photographer.

I hired a small inexpensive studio in a basement in Holborn. The shoot itself was very relaxed and fun, we sipped green tea. Hermione was very reserved as we sat around a bamboo table and we exchanged peace, love, dove stories as you did in those days (we were going to change the world) and we listened to the folkie song Ching-A-Ling  which featured each member of the band on lead vocals.

As we were leaving David asked me if I would like to go with him to the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Scotland. He said “It’s only £2.50 for the weekend”. I said ‘Um, I don’t know, I’ll let you know” which I didn’t because I was very into my Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle at that time, which took up all my non-shooting moments, looking for fun in all the wrong places. I didn’t realise how karmically significant his suggestion would be. After many years of living a very fast global lifestyle I finally met my Tibetan Buddhist Teacher Khyongla Rato Rinpoche in New York in the late 80s.

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In the early 70s I bumped into David by chance  in all his solo finery at the trendy restaurant Mimmo d’Ischia surrounded by his spangled and glittery entourage and in full make up. At first I was a little hesitant to say hello to him but I took the opportunity to tell him how much I loved his new music.

I then asked him if he was still going to Samye Ling and studying Buddhism and he looked at me and smiled and said ” No, it’s far too Eastern”. Later that night as  I drove home through the deserted streets in the driving  London rain, in my red Gordon Keeble I thought that ‘Buddha simply means awakened mind, North, South, East or West and in the 10 directions’ so as His Holiness says ‘Buddha nature lies within each one of us’. Over the years this thought came to me again and again, and I wondered should I have said that to him? I never mentioned it even when I saw and photographed him again, for me it was an unfinished conversation.

  • Clive Arrowsmith is still  shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries  (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here

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