David Bowie Crossed the Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Express Train in 1973. Fascinating Photos Document a Historic Voyage

Bowie’s friend and band member Geoff MacCormack documented the journey by the rock legend.

Geoff MacCormack, David Bowie in the Trans-Siberia Express, 1973. Courtesy the artist and Wende Museum.

A 1973 train trip through Siberia to Moscow by rock legend David Bowie is now the subject of a museum exhibition. “David Bowie in the Soviet Union” at California’s Wende Museum features his friend Geoff MacCormack’s photos of the rock star at the end of his worldwide Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane tour, in which the photographer participated as a singer, percussionist, and dancer. 

After a concert in Yokohama, Japan, Bowie—who had a phobia about flying due to a fortune teller’s prediction that he would die on a plane—suggested he and members of his entourage take the Trans-Siberian Express train, running along the longest railway line in the world at some 5,772 miles, en route to Paris via Warsaw and East Berlin. Using a Japanese Nikkormat camera, MacCormack (aka Warren Peace), who had known Bowie since they were eight years old, captured intimate moments with the musician throughout the train trip.

Geoff MacCormack, David Bowie in Front of the Trans-Siberian Express, 1973. Courtesy of the artist and Wende Museum.

Bowie and MacCormack mixed with fans and caroused with soldiers and sailors, with the aftermath depicted in MacCormack’s David Bowie After Long Drinking Sessions on the Train (1973). MacCormack also documents everyday moments like a woman skipping rope on a train platform and Russian boys posing for the camera. Leee Black Childers, photographer and writer, shot Bowie and MacCormack on the train and in Moscow. 

The show includes Bowie’s own The Long Way Home, a nearly eight-minute documentary, shot on 16mm film during the trip itself, that includes their attendance at the May Day Parade in Moscow. MacCormack’s photos are interspersed with Bowie’s footage. Also included in the film program is a 20-minute interview with Bowie in the USSR in 1996 by Artemy Troitsky. The exhibition is guest curated by Olya Sova, an independent curator who divides her time between London and L.A. and runs the arts organization The New Social

MacCormack published the photographic memoir David Bowie: Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me this spring. It’s named after a song on Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs that he co-wrote. 

Accompanying the show is a playlist put together by Los Angeles non-profit online radio station dublab.

See more photos from the show below.

Leee Black Childers, David Bowie and Geoff MacCormack on the Trans-Siberian Express (1973). Courtesy of the artist and Wende Museum.

Geoff MacCormack, David Bowie After Long Drinking Sessions on the Train (1973). Courtesy of the artist and Wende Museum.

Geoff MacCormack, Skipping Lady (1973). Courtesy of the artist and Wende Museum.

Leee Black Childers, David Bowie and Geoff MacCormack at the May Parade at Red Square (1973). Courtesy of the artist and Wende Museum.

“David Bowie in the Soviet Union” is on view at the Wende Museum, 10808 Culver Blvd, Culver City, California, through October 22.


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