Mick Rock was once called “the man who shot the 70’s” and judging by this brilliant documentary about his hedonistic existence, he was. Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock opens in New York in 1996 with a reenactment of a middle aged man being carted into an ambulance with a breathing mask on. We soon learn that this was Rock at his lowest moment after suffering from three successive heart attacks due to extreme drug use. As the film slowly unravels we learn the beguiling story about how Rock got to this point from his early days of photography shooting Syd Barrett, through his friendships with the likes of Lou Reed and David Bowie and concluding with the drug addiction that caused him to hit rock bottom. It’s an eye opening, psychedelic trip into the mind of a man whose life makes for enchanting cinema.
It’s a visually rich, kaleidoscopic documentary that’s surprisingly organised for a film with such a messy subject matter. It’s broken into sections for each musical phase Mick documented from rock to glam to punk, although fans of punk will be disappointed by the lack of coverage. Director Barnaby Clay splices in a small selection of Rock’s endless work, plays tapes the photographer recorded with Bowie and Reed, all coming together to accompany Rock’s recollections. Yet, it’s the inclusion of the reenactment during the opening that lingers throughout that jars, it never intrudes on the photographer’s musings but idly sits in the background waiting to have a purpose.Rock lovingly compares Barrett to classic poets, likens Iggy Pop to a reptile and calls The Ramones ugly. It all results in an engrossing, masterful documentary given hefty emotion when it documents the friendship between Rock and the late Bowie; allowing fans an insight into the mysterious man from one of his closest friends. It will even manage to interest those whose record collection doesn’t include the likes of Bowie, Bolan and Reed.
In an age where we’ve become dependent on Instagram, Shot! reminds us of the power of photography and its ability to capture a single moment. In one of the touching discussions Rock listens back to with Reed, the singer states that people like to listen to his music because of its illegal content and the same rule applies for Clay’s film. Rock’s photography, and the documentary as an extension, offers us the opportunity to vicariously experience this hedonistic life, allowing us to live by the free and easy spirit of the music Rock so excellently documents.