Album image via Amazon
Album image via Amazon

The Stories Behind 8 Photographs That Were Reused For Album Covers

Album image via Amazon
Album image via Amazon

The art on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut album is unmistakable: it's the iconic photograph taken May 6, 1937 of the Hindenburg bursting into flames while trying to dock in New Jersey. The following eight examples are from artists who followed Led Zeppelin's lead and reused preexisting, unrelated photos for album covers.

1. BECK // ODELAY (1996)

Photo credit: Joan Ludwig // Album image via Amazon

It might take a few glances to determine what exactly is leaping over a barricade on the cover of Beck’s hit-spewing second major-label album. That mop-like creature is a Komondor, a Hungarian breed of herding dog known for its white corded coat. Beck was apparently searching for a cover idea when his girlfriend, singer Leigh Limon, came across the image in a book about dog breeds. According to the book 100 Greatest Album Covers, Odelay’s co-art director Robert Fisher contacted the photographer, Joan Ludwig, who is well known for her images of show dogs. Fisher visited Ludwig at her Los Angeles home and the two searched through a garage’s worth of boxes of dog photos to find the original transparency of the leaping Komondor. It never turned up, so Fisher scanned the image from the book, which “did give the cover a certain look that I liked.”

2. TOM WAITS // RAIN DOGS (1985)

Photo credit: Anders Petersen // Album image via Amazon

In the late ’60s, Swede Anders Petersen spent three years photographing regulars at Café Lehmitz, a bar in Hamburg, Germany, that was frequented by prostitutes, drug addicts, and working-class locals. It’s easy to see a similarity between those outsiders and the ones described in Tom Waits’s music. Waits selected an image from Petersen’s book Café Lehmitz as the cover of his Rain Dogs. “I said yes when the record company asked, because I like Tom's music,” Petersen told The Guardian. The woman was a charismatic regular named Lilly and the bare-chested man is Rose, one of her many suitors.


Photo credit: Malcolm Browne // Album image via Amazon

To the teens and 20-somethings who bought Rage against the Machine’s complacency-shattering debut album, the cover image of a serene-looking man engulfed in flames probably looked like the work of some hip graphic artist. Or they may have recognized it as a famous news photo, one not altered (beyond cropping) for RATM’s self-titled debut. On June 11, 1963, Thích Quảng Đức, a monk, immolated himself in Saigon as part of protests against Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem’s discrimination against Buddhists. Associated Press Bureau Chief Malcolm Browne captured the disturbing and powerful image. Though several newspapers declined to run it, Browne still won the World Press’ Best News Picture of the Year award. Decades later, the band licensed it, putting the monk’s last act onto the bedroom walls and t-shirt drawers of kids a half a world away.


Photo credit: Tod Barry (disputed) // Album image via Amazon

Rostam Batmanglij, multi-instrumentalist for New York City indie band Vampire Weekend, came across this vintage Polaroid of a blond model in a polo shirt. “We had a lot of discussions trying to figure out how old this person was when the picture was taken,” lead singer Ezra Koenig told Pitchfork. “She could be 15 or 27. The ambiguity of her age and expression made me feel like she was on the cusp of something, which really matches the vibe of the new album.” They tracked down photographer Tod Barry, who says he took it at a casting call for a TV ad in 1983.

By the time of the album’s release, the model, Ann Kirsten Kennis, had retired to Fairfield, Connecticut. One day, her daughter showed her the album cover on the website of Barnes and Noble. After Contra went to number one in several countries, Kennis saw her face from 30 years ago staring back from The New York Times, at the Gap, and on New York City street corners. She sued the photographer, band, and label. Barry claimed he had a release for the photo, but Kennis said he wasn’t even the photographer and her mother probably took the shot. Kennis and the band settled out of court.

5. PLACEBO // PLACEBO (1996)

Photo credit: Saul Fletcher // Album image via Amazon

Placebo’s self-titled debut went to number five on the British charts. The cover image of a boy in a red jumper pulling his cheeks downward is from Saul Fletcher, a London-based photographer. Fletcher took it at the funeral of his cousin Duane Fox, who died of muscular dystrophy. The boy is Duane’s 12-year-old brother Justin. Unlike Kennis, Justin Fox got a heads-up that he’d be on an album cover. But when Placebo charted, he claimed he was teased mercilessly. “Nobody [at school] wanted me on their side or anything like that,” he told The Times. “Even the teachers used to pull me aside and ask me about this CD cover.”


Photo credit: Corbis // Album image via Amazon

The Philadelphia organic hip-hop group’s breakthrough album was originally released with five variant covers, each with a historical photo representing a different societal ill. Most editions of the album feature a ’60s-era image of police chasing two African-American teenagers in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Seeing real fear in the woman's face is very affecting,” art director Kenny Gravillis told Complex. “It feels unflinching and aggressive in its commentary on society. I remember going to Tower Records and seeing it huge; it was just so impactful.” The label obtained the photo from Corbis, a licensing storehouse for photographs. The identity of the photograph is lost to history.


Photo credit: Peter Hujar // Album image via Amazon

For her Mercury Prize-winning second album, baroque pop singer Antony Hegarty licensed Peter Hujar’s famous photo "Candy Darling on Her Deathbed." Darling was a Warhol “Superstar” and died from lymphoma at the age of 29. Darling, like Hegarty, was a transgender woman, an issue addressed throughout I Am a Bird Now. Hegarty had been a fan of Hujar’s work for several years. She told Politico, “The relationship between light and darkness is something I've been thinking about for a long time starting with my observations of the photography of Peter Hujar.”


Photo credit: Joe Szabo // Album image via Amazon

The photo of a smoking girl from Dinosaur Jr.’s fourth album was taken by Joe Szabo, a former teacher at Malverne High School in Long Island, who specializes in candids of teens. The image is entitled "Priscilla," but Szabo doesn’t know her name or much about her. “The girl in the photo is a mystery and will ever remain so,” he explained about probably the most famous picture from his 1978 book Almost Grown. “One day as I was photographing at Jones Beach I saw ‘Priscilla’ in front of me and my immediate reaction was to make a photo(s) before the moment changed. I took a few photos, looked down to rewind the film, and put in another roll. When I looked up she was gone!”

University of York
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
UK Archaeologists Have Found One of the World’s Oldest 'Crayons'
University of York
University of York

A prehistoric chunk of pigment found near an ancient lake in England may be one of the world's oldest crayons, Colossal reports. The small object made of red ochre was discovered during an archaeological excavation near Lake Flixton, a prehistoric lake that has since become a peat wetland but was once occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Though it’s hard to date the crayon itself, it was found in a layer of earth dating back to the 7th millennium BCE, according to a recent study by University of York archaeologists.

Measuring less than an inch long, the piece of pigment is sharpened at one end, and its shape indicates that it was modified by a person and used extensively as a tool, not shaped by nature. The piece "looks exactly like a crayon," study author Andy Needham of the University of York said in a press release.

A pebble of red ochre thought to be a prehistoric crayon
University of York

The fine grooves and striations on the crayon suggest that it was used as a drawing tool, and indicate that it might have been rubbed against a granular surface (like a rock). Other research has found that ochre was collected and used widely by prehistoric hunter-gatherers like the ones who lived near Lake Flixton, bolstering the theory that it was used as a tool.

The researchers also found another, pebble-shaped fragment of red ochre at a nearby site, which was scraped so heavily that it became concave, indicating that it might have been used to extract the pigment as a red powder.

"The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art," Needham said. "It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork."

[h/t Colossal]

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Tour the National Museum of Scotland From Home With Google Street View
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Google's Street View technology can be used to view some amazing art, whether it's behind the walls of the Palace of Versailles in France or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As the BBC reports, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is the latest institution to receive the virtual treatment.

The museum contains items tracing the history of the world and humanity. In the Natural World galleries, visitors will find a hulking Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and a panorama of wildlife. In the World Cultures galleries, there are centuries' worth of art and innovation to see. The museum's permanent galleries and the 20,000 objects on display can all be viewed from home thanks to the new online experience.

Users can navigate the virtual museum as they would a regular location on Street View. Just click the area you wish to explore and drag your cursor for full 365-degree views. If there's a particular piece that catches your interest, you may be able to learn more about it from Google Arts & Culture. The site has added 1000 items from the National Museum of Scotland to its database, complete with high-resolution photos and detailed descriptions.

The Street View tour is a convenient option for art lovers outside the UK, but the museum is also worth visiting in person: Like its virtual counterpart, admission to the institution is free.

[h/t BBC]


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