David Bowie car boot photos set to star

A treasure trove of David Bowie photographs – bought at a car boot sale for £20 decades ago – are expected to fetch thousands of pounds at auction in July.

David Bowie photography by Sukita

The striking images of the iconic star were spotted on a bric-a-brac stall in Somerset in 1991. The captivating shots are by famous Japanese master photographer Masayoshi Sukita, best known for his 40-year collaboration with Bowie. His images are so highly regarded limited-edition prints sell for hundreds or even thousands of pounds today – and the examples discovered include a set of Bowie images rarely seen.

David Bowie photograph by Sukita found in a car boot sale

The collection, which includes 64 images and a photographic sample book, is set to go under the hammer at Irita Marriott Auctioneers’ Derbyshire saleroom on July 17 – and it could achieve more than £4,000. Six of the photos are marked ‘SUKITA’ on the back but all are by him, according to the auction experts. 

The seller, a 73-year-old retired manager of a logistics company, from Melbourne, Derbyshire, said: “In 1991, I was at a car boot sale in the village of Whitchurch looking for furniture and knick-knacks for a house I’d upsized to with my partner. I was just rummaging through a stall and there was the box of Bowie photos, posters and a few books. 

A photograph of David Bowie by Sukita that was bought at a car boot sale

“I’m a big Bowie fan so, on impulse, got them. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid but it was about £20. I was excited by them but had to cool it a bit because my partner wasn’t impressed! I don’t know where they originated from but, after a good look through and sorting them into the photo files, I realised how good they were.

“Not too long after getting them I split up from my partner, moved north with work and took the photos with me. They stayed in a packing box most of the time. I got them out when Bowie died in 2016 and showed them to friends and fans. They went back into the box and stayed there while I renovated a derelict cottage I’d purchased. I got them out again recently and just thought it was time to let them go. I had no idea of the potential value or rarity until now.”

A photograph by David Bowie by the Japanese photographer Sukita

Irita Marriott, a familiar face on TV antique shows and owner of the Melbourne auction house which discovered the photos, said: “We’re so excited about this incredible car boot find. It’s amazing to think these Bowie treasures were found by chance 33 years ago in Somerset and then lay tucked away in Derbyshire for years. Perhaps most fascinating for fans is a set of 10 images showing Bowie in different poses against a clock backdrop. They were taken in Japan in 1980. Countless pictures were taken of Bowie throughout his career but I’d never seen those before.

An image of David Bowie taken by the photographer Sukita

“If an iconic Bowie image pops into your mind, it’s likely Sukita took the shot. He’s an internationally acclaimed photographer, a genius behind the camera. He worked with Bowie from 1972 until his death in 2016. They understood each other creatively. Sukita captured Bowie’s artistry through the decades including his flamboyant glam-rock era alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Sukita’s limited-edition Bowie prints can sell for anything from £250 to £20,000 per image so it will be interesting to see how collectors react to this opportunity.”

Masayoshi Sukita photograph of David Bowie

Sukita was inspired to see Bowie perform live in 1972 after spotting a poster promoting a London concert. The photographer admired Bowie’s innovative style and contacted the star’s management team. A portrait session was arranged and a photo-shoot in the summer of 1972 began a 40-plus-year collaboration. Sukita shot several Bowie album covers including Heroes, Tin Machine and The Next Day. He also published photo books.

The pictorial treasure trove is being offered in 21 lots split into Bowie eras. They include the circa 1989 Sukita photographic sample book with black velvet cover and Bowie image on the front. It’s filled with 79 cut-out contact sheet images, some numbered, showcasing Bowie images taken between 1972-1989. They vary in size from 3x4cm to 6x6cm and would have been used to choose and order reprints, estimate £500-£1,000.

Irita Marriott, owner of Irita Marriott Auctioneers and Valuers, with the Bowie images sample book
Irita Marriott, owner of Irita Marriott Auctioneers and Valuers, with the Bowie images sample book – Credit @chloecreativephotography

Other star lots include the quirky Bowie clock face images, £500-£1,000, and a set of four 42cm x 30cm black and white photos of the musical legend taken in 1972, the year the Sukita-Bowie collaboration began. Stamped ‘SUKITA’ on the reverse, this set is guided at £400-£600.

About Sukita

Masayoshi Sukita was born in Nōgata Shi, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1938, is best known as an album cover photographer for famous artists who emerged in the 1970s, primarily David Bowie. Sukita became passionate about jazz and rock ‘n’ roll at a young age. He enrolled in a photography school but said his best visual education came from studying films starring  Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. Photography influences include Dennis Stock who immortalised James Dean. In 1961 Sukita joined the photographic department of Daiko Advertising Inc in Osaka. In 1970 he turned freelance and in 1972  photographed Marc Bolan of T. Rex in London. During that trip, his decision to attend a Bowie concert led to their important collaboration.

Our sister publisher ACC Art Books publishes the book Sukita, which includes the Japanese photographer’s images of David Bowie.

The ACC Art Books’ title David Bowie: Icon includes the work of Sukita and other leading photographers who captured Bowie throughout his career