For the Record: Photography & the Art of the Album Cover
For the Record: Photography & the Art of the Album Cover celebrates the unique ‘object d’art’ that is the Album Cover and reflects upon its role in shaping and making artists – both in front of and behind the camera.
For the Record brings together over 200 album covers, highlighting the central role photography plays in defining artists and bands, and showcasing some of the most iconic album covers of our times.
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing, Island Records, 1981, by Jean-Paul Goude
The Nightclubbing cover is regarded as one of the most iconic of album sleeves. Despite Goude and Jones’s controversial relationship, this is perhaps the most memorable image of the singer.
Prince – Lovesexy, Paisley Park, 1988, by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (design by Laura LiPuma)
Boz Scaggs – Middle Man, Columbia, 1980, by Guy Bourdin
Tirez Tirez – Etudes, Aura, 1980, by Brian Griffin (design by Bill Smith)
Brian Griffin: ‘This photograph was taken in my studio/bedroom at Elsynge Road in Wandsworth [south London] using my bed. The model is Martin Cropper, who I used in my work at the time. It was originally taken for my book Brian Griffin Copyright 1978 and later purchased for the cover by Aaron Sixx of Aura records for Tirez Tirez’
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs, Island Records, 1985, by Anders Petersen
It’s not actually Tom Waits in the picture, but Lilly and Rose from Hamburg’s Café Lehmitz.
Thelonious Monk – Monk, Columbia, 1964, by W Eugene Smith
Photographer and photojournalist W Eugene Smith demanded such perfection of his images that he destroyed most of his early work. He had a vast career and helped define photojournalism through his work at Life magazine, before joining Magnum Photos in 1955. He is remembered as a master both technically and in the darkroom. This photograph is titled Thelonious Monk Rehearsing in the Loft, 1959.
Madonna – True Blue, Sire/Warner, 1986, by Herb Ritts
Warner Brothers art department staffer Jeri Heiden, who had been given the task of going through all the photos from the session to choose the final album cover, stated that cropping this photo into a square gave it a unique quality, something ‘goddess-like’, as if Madonna were a marble statue.
The Rolling Stones – Goats Heads Soup, The Rolling Stones Records, 1973, by David Bailey (design by Ray Lawrence)
When this album was released, David Bailey was a friend of Mick Jagger’s who had worked with the Rolling Stones since 1964. The portrait of Jagger on the front cover was approximately life size in the original 12-inch LP format.
Serge Gainsbourg – Love on the Beat, Philips, 1984, by William Klein
French singer Serge Gainsbourg dressed in drag for the cover of Love on the Beat. Gainsbourg gave up alcohol for 12 days ahead of the shoot with legendary photographer William Klein to make himself beautiful.
Grace Jones – Island Life, Island Records, 1985, by Jean-Paul Goude (design by Greg Porto)
Jones assigned her then partner, Jean-Paul Goude, to create this cover image for Island Life. In what has become an iconic portrait, Goude compiled several separate snaps of Jones and constructed this lissom and elegant, if anatomically dubious, pose, all before Photoshop existed. ‘Unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque,’ Goude has said. ‘The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion’
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!, A&M, 1979, by Brian Griffin (design by Michael Ross)
Brian Griffin: ‘This was shot on London’s South Bank, which you could say was my open-air studio, as I did not have a studio then. I fell in love with the quality of light that pervaded there. It was the fastest album cover shoot that I ever did, maybe it took four minutes. I saw this patch of light making a pattern on the paving and said to Joe: “Stand there!”’
Diana Ross – Silk Electric, RCA, 1982, by Andy Warhol (photograph and design)
Warhol’s image of Diana was used as the cover of her 13th studio album.
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine, Epic, 1992, by Malcolm Browne
Rage against the Machine’s cover features a crop of Malcolm Browne’s famous photograph of the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, in Saigon in 1963. The monk was protesting against President Ngô Đình Diệm’s administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion. In 1963, Browne’s photography and coverage of the event earned him the World Press Photo of the Year award.
The Beatles – Abbey Road, Apple, 1969, by Iain Macmillan (design by John Kosh)
Photographer Iain Macmillan only had a short time to get this shot on his Hasselblad camera. A policeman halted the traffic as Macmillan climbed up a stepladder in the middle of the road. The group crossed the road back and forth three times as Macmillan took just six shots. Paul McCartney looked at the contact sheet and it was decided that the fifth frame was the best.
Graham Parker and the Rumour – The Parkerilla, Mercury, 1978, by Brian Griffin (design by Barney Bubbles)
Brian Griffin: ‘Dave Robinson of Stiff Records commissioned me for this. It was my first album cover and was shot on the South Bank in London next to the Hayward Gallery. The idea to make Graham Parker look like a gorilla was Dave’s, using prosthetics. This album was also my introduction to Barney Bubbles, who designed the cover.’
Led Zeppelin – Physical Grafitti, Swan Song, 1975, by Elliott Erwitt (design by AGI/Mike Doud/Peter Corriston)
The cover shows two New York tenement buildings at 96 and 98 St Marks Place in the East Village. The buildings are five storeys high, but the fourth floor was removed from the photograph to fit the square format of the sleeve. The concept was highly influenced by the sleeve of a 1973 José Feliciano album, Compartments, which features a two-storey brownstone building with images of Feliciano in the windows.