Beyoncé and David Bowie Photographer's Dallas Exhibition Is a Homecoming | Dallas Observer

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Photographer Markus Klinko Returns to Dallas With a Star-Studded Collection of Pop Icons

Photographer Markus Klinko's portrait of singer David Bowie, "Rhythm Roulette" is part of a new exhibition of Klinko's portraits on Friday at Markowicz Fine Art.
Photographer Markus Klinko's portrait of singer David Bowie, "Rhythm Roulette" is part of a new exhibition of Klinko's portraits on Friday at Markowicz Fine Art. Markus Klinko/Courtesy of Champion Management
The first time Markus Klinko was in Dallas, he was practicing his art with a harp and a symphony. Now he seeks it out with a camera and studio lighting — and he's pursuing some of the most famous artists in the world.

Klinko has built an impressive portfolio of celebrity and fashion photoshoots of musical royalty such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and David Bowie in the time between his first trip to Dallas and the one he'll take Friday, June 9, for his exhibition at Markowicz Fine Art (1700 Oak Lawn Ave.), which runs through June 22.

"This is a homecoming for me," Klinko says. "Even though I only lived in Dallas for six months, it was a very important junction of my life.

The exhibition, titled Icons: Bowie to Beyoncé, will show some of his work with famous subjects, but that's not all. The collection also shows the photographer's ideas of personal expression and the stories he tells about people who have shaped the steady march of art, fashion, music and popular culture for the last three decades.

"Most of the work you see is by assignment, where record labels and magazines hire me to shoot these projects," Klinko says. "However, in the last six or seven years, I've been more focused on my art career. I've been working with 50 galleries all over the world. It's an exciting aspect of my career, so I have my own ability to create my own assignment."

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Markus Klinko started his American music career in the mid-1980s in Dallas as a classical harp soloist.
Courtesy of Championship Management
Klinko, a native of Switzerland, started his artistic journey as a classical harp soloist at places such as the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et De Danse in Paris and playing with orchestras such as the Paris Opera Bastille. He came to Dallas in the mid-1980s to continue his soloist career in the U.S., playing with the Dallas Chamber Ensemble. He remembers the walls of his apartment being particularly thin. He had to practice 10 hours a day, and the landlord kicked him out of his place.

"Dallas has become such a big city," Klinko says. "When I was living there, it was more intimate. There was a nightclub called Sam Simeon and I would go a couple of times a week and people would come up to me because they knew I was the harpist."

In less than a year, he signed a deal with EMI Classics and Columbia Artists Management that took him across the country and around the world. His recording of French harp music with the orchestra at the Paris Opera Bastille won him the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque award.

Then, a hand injury in 1993 derailed his music career at the young age of 33. Unable to play the harp, he sold his instruments and decided to pursue a career in photography "despite the fact I had never owned a camera," according to a column he wrote in The Guardian.

He didn't intend to shoot musicians for a living but his agent urged him to take offers, and his cover shoot for Vibe magazine in 2000 of Beyoncé while she was a member of Destiny's Child supercharged his career and made him one of the most sought-after photographers in the music industry. Beyoncé would call on Klinko several times after that — most famously, to shoot the diamond-studded cover of her Dangerously in Love album.

"When I first shot Beyoncé in 2003, exactly 20 years ago, at that time when it first came out, I don't know if people immediately looked at it and thought it was iconic but I said she looks cool and she became iconic over time as people kept seeing it everywhere," Klinko says. "It's probably my most famous image. I adore photographing her. There's a give and take, not like discussing in words so much. It's more like a dance. I understand what she's going to be doing next. I think she understands what I'm seeing and doing."

The list of celebrities Klinko has photographed is a lengthy one. Mariah Carey tapped him to shoot the cover for her album The Emancipation of Mimi and her Playboy magazine cover in 2007. His portraits and photographs of cultural icons include model Chrissy Teigen, comedian Chris Rock, singer Alicia Keys, actor Channing Tatum and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

The late David Bowie asked Klinko to shoot the cover for his 2002 album Heathen, which sparked a partnership that produced some of Bowie's most memorable and thoughtful images. Klinko's series of portraits of Bowie are so moving and personal that when Bowie died in 2016, they stood as a tribute to the glam rock icon and his contributions to mankind.

"He scared me," Klinko says. "It was like too much. I was into Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. David Bowie was too sophisticated for me, and then 40 years later, he calls me up on the phone says, 'Hi, it's David. I want you to shoot my album cover.' It's pretty phenomenal. I like it a lot."

Klinko's connection to fame doesn't stop at the edges of the photo frame. Some well-known names, including some of the people he's photographed, are some of his biggest fans and collectors of his work.
The cover for Markus Klinko's new catalog of photographs features Beyoncé's famous Dangerously in Love cover, which Klinko calls his "most famous" work.
Markus Klinko/Courtesy of Champion Management
"I'm very fortunate that people like The Weeknd, Beyoncé and Tom Cruise have started collecting my work," Klinko says.

Thanks to his success, Klinko can also pursue his photographic vision on his terms with more artistic pursuits such as The Angel Factory, a photo series that satirizes the unrealistic beauty standards pushed on men and women using "high-tech medical brands" with a Black Mirror-esque view of the cult of celebrity and fashion. It's an interesting way to cap a career spent documenting the looks and style of celebrity while making a statement with his impressive body of work.

"As a society, we pretty much created this religion and the religion is that our society of following celebrities and worshipping celebrities almost as if they were deities," Klinko says. "I feel with my work, I'm always holding up a mirror to society reflecting it back to them and documenting it." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.

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