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How Great Photographers Made Iconic Album Covers

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Cover for 'Middle Man' by Boz Scaggs; released by Columbia Records in, 1980; photographed by Guy Bourdin (Aperture, 2016)
Cover for ‘Middle Man’ by Boz Scaggs; released by Columbia Records in 1980; photographed by Guy Bourdin (Aperture, 2016)

 

 

Iconic images define pop cultural figures and pop culture itself. For musicians, no platform can potentially shape their persona more than an album cover. It often takes a complex relationship between photographer and musician to generate these images. W. Eugene Smith’s work on Thelonious Monk’s Monk and Irving Penn’s portrait of Miles Davis for his album Tutu are classic examples of these collaborations.

A new book, published by Aperture, explores the historic connection between photographer and musician. Total Records: Photography and the Art of the Album Cover details the overlapping worlds of music and photography, covering the relationships between the two artists and the stories behind such iconic art for albums like Abbey Road and Rage Against the Machine’s debut.

 

Photographed by Francis Wolff, John Coltrane at his “Blue Train” session on September 15, 1957 (Aperture, 2016)
Photographed by Francis Wolff,  John Coltrane at his “Blue Train” session on September 15, 1957 (Aperture, 2016)

 

The book features 444 images from behind the scenes on set, selected photos that were left on the cutting room floor, and alternative album art. Photographers on display in Total Records include David Bailey, Guy Bourdin, Anton Corbijn, Robert Frank, David LaChapelle, Danny Lyon, Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, and Andy Warhol, among others.

Total Records can be purchased here, for $25. Before you order a copy, peruse a sample of the photography from the book below.

Album art for Tom Waits', 'Rain Dogs;' Released by Island Records in 1985; Photographed by Anders Petersen (Aperture, 2016)
Album art for Tom Waits’, ‘Rain Dogs;’ Released by Island Records in 1985; Photographed by Anders Petersen (Aperture, 2016)
The Raveonettes' cover for 'Rarities/B-Sides;' Self-released in 2011; photographed by Todd Hido (Aperture, 2016)
The Raveonettes’ cover for ‘Rarities/B-Sides;’ Self-released in 2011; photographed by Todd Hido (Aperture, 2016)
Album art for Big Star's, 'Radio City;' released by Ardent Records in 1974; photographed by William Eggleston (Aperture, 2016)
Album art for Big Star’s, ‘Radio City;’ released by Ardent Records in 1974; photographed by William Eggleston (Aperture, 2016)
Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti;' Released by Swan Song in 1975; photographed by Elliott Erwitt (Aperture, 2016)
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Physical Graffiti;’ Released by Swan Song in 1975; photographed by Elliott Erwitt (Aperture, 2016)
Ray Charles on the cover of his album 'What’d I Say;' released by Atlantic Records in 1959; photographed by Lee Friedlander (Aperture, 2016)
Ray Charles on the cover of his album ‘What’d I Say;’ released by Atlantic Records in 1959; photographed by Lee Friedlander (Aperture, 2016)