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'There was nobody like him': Vancouver photographer recounts capturing David Bowie in concert

Photographer and David Bowie fan Angela Hubbard says she is shocked and saddened by the music icon's death.

Floral tributes are left beneath a mural of British singer David Bowie, painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, following the announcement of Bowie's death, in Brixton, south London, on Jan. 11, 2016.

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Floral tributes are left beneath a mural of British singer David Bowie, painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, following the announcement of Bowie's death, in Brixton, south London, on Jan. 11, 2016.

As her camera shutter snapped, Angela Hubbard knew she had captured one of the best photographs of her career.

It was January 24, 2004, and the Vancouver rock photographer was less than two metres away from David Bowie during his show at GM Place in what proved to be his final tour.

Bowie died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer.

A framed photo taken by Vancouver photograph Angela Hubbard of David Bowie performing in General Motors Place on Jan. 24, 2004.

Courtesy Angela Hubbard

A framed photo taken by Vancouver photograph Angela Hubbard of David Bowie performing in General Motors Place on Jan. 24, 2004.

Hubbard's photo, which captures the music icon beaming while taking a bow on stage, his figure framed by the hands of an audience member, is now framed in her home.

“It was just, it doesn’t get any better than this,” she recalled the moment. “How can I do anything to top this? It was just a masterpiece.”

On Friday, Hubbard snapped a photo of the framed image and posted it on Instagram to mark Bowie’s 69th birthday. Little did she or millions of fans around the world know at the time, it would be his last.

When Hubbard heard the news of his death Sunday night, she said she was shocked and saddened.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “I couldn't sleep last night. There was a café that was playing his music this morning, and I just couldn’t even listen to it. It was too soon for me to hear it."

A long time fan of his music, Hubbard said she remembers hearing her first Bowie record in 1983. At the time a teenager working at a record store in downtown Ottawa, she said she was immediately drawn to his music.

“He was such a chameleon,” she said. “The way he kept reinventing himself and creating all these new personas, there was nobody like him.”

Hubbard’s love of Bowie and rock ‘n’ roll went on to shape her career. In 1984, she started photographing concerts in Ottawa.

In the early days of the Internet, she said she was among the first to build a website and start promoting her work online. It wasn’t long before Rolling Stone magazine came knocking.

Rock photographer Angela Hubbard recounted her experience photographing David Bowie during his final performance in Vancouver in 2004.

Courtesy Angela Hubbard

Rock photographer Angela Hubbard recounted her experience photographing David Bowie during his final performance in Vancouver in 2004.

Since the mid-1990s, Hubbard described her life as mirroring the plot line of the popular 2000 film Almost Famous, which tells the story of a teenage journalist’s experience writing for Rolling Stone.

While living in Los Angeles, Hubbard said she started doing freelance photography for the popular culture bi-weekly, touring and photographing a diverse roundup of musicians, including James Brown, B.B. King, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Taylor Swift.

Although she has photographed many concerts since Bowie, Hubbard said nothing has compared to that experience.

While his death has not yet sunk in for her, Hubbard said she will always treasure the moment of photographing his final performance in Vancouver.

“There’s just some sort of magic that happens when an artist is performing on stage doing what they love, and I’m doing what I love,” she said. “There's a connection. You can feel their presence. You capture that person’s soul through the lens.”

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