For forty years Storm Thorgerson’s album covers and films have created the visual images we associate not only with the greatest rock bands, such as Pink Floyd, but with our times. London Grip was at the launch of the artist and film-maker’s latest publication….
Mind Over Matter: The Images of Pink Floyd
Because we are such visual animals, it is primarily by remembered images that we determine our generational and geographical identity. We look about us, fix upon objects or their representations, and in so far as it is possible, know who we are. If I see a woman in a crinoline, I know something’s up. If I see a little green homunculus, I know something’s gone down.
What’s remarkable about Storm Thorgerson’s legendary album covers is that while they were designed as supposed adjuncts to the music inside them and have become identified with those bands, the pictures have achieved, consistently and repeatedly over forty years, a separate life of their own. They have been reproduced in their millions, poured over by millions. Most of us never stop to think that those pictures were conjured into being by the intelligence and hard labour of essentially one person. It’s startling to consider that it’s possible for art collectors to hang on their walls the originals of these icons of our age.
Any number of Storm’s album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Phish, Paul McCartney, Wishbone Ash, or innumerable other bands, have become familiar even to those of us who are neither rock aficionados nor memorabilia geeks. So not only might one say that he was a member of Pink Floyd, but that he has always been a force unto himself to which Floyd usually had the wit to conjoin itself.
It’s often the rule that non-literary artists speak through their work and have little to say for themselves. This isn’t true of Storm who has an idiosyncratic, funny, fearlessly verbal turn of mind.
Since a feature of his surreal work is that it’s based on photographs of real constructions, his descriptions of the thinking and the set-ups behind each shot are entertaining in themselves. It is as well that the books about his work are never just a catalogue of images but have as much text and transcription of interviews as one needs.
The image used for Dark Side of the Moonis the one for which Storm is perhaps most famous, the one most often referred to as an “iconic” image of our time. In an interview with Gary Graff in Guitar World, Storm once described shooting the photograph at the pyramids in the middle of the night: “I hired a taxi at 2 o’clock a.m. to take me out to the pyramids. So there I am, thinking I’ll be fine, and I put the camera on the tripod to do a long-time exposure. It’s a wonderful, clear night, and the moon is fantastic. So I’m doing it…and then, at like 4 o’clock a.m., these figures come walking across – soldiers, with guns. I thought, ‘This is it. The game is up – young photographer dies a strange death in a foreign land.’ I was actually really scared. Of course, all my fears were unfounded. They were really very friendly. They wanted a bit of bakshish, a little bit of money to go away. They kindly pointed out that where I stood was actually a firing range, and they’d come to tell me it wasn’t very cool for me to be there. If I was there first thing in the morning, I might get a bullet up my butt.”
To mark forty years of designing album covers and directing film and videos for Pink Floyd, this big, new and much extended volume about Storm’s work for the band, co-authored with Peter Curzon, has been published by Hipgnosis and Storm Studios: Mind over Matter: the Images of Pink Floyd – a huge and phenomenal book in every sense.
While photographing this image, the inflatable pig broke free from its mooring over Battersea Power Station and entered official air space. Heathrow air-traffic controllers were legally obliged to alert aircraft to the danger of encountering a flying pig.
(USA release cover) The 15 metre high/1500 kg heads are now in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.