Ok, let’s try something. What do you think of when I give you the following pictures: A baby diving in a pool with a one-dollar note. Four young men on a zebra crossing in London. A beam of light broken up into its spectral colors by a prism. Well – what comes to mind? Easy: Album covers. Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, “Abbey Road” by the Beatles, or Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” – iconic record covers have left their mark on music history just as much as the songs on the longplayer. A new exhibition in the German capital aims to explore this amazing correlation between music and photography on the record sleeves of the vinyl era: Total Records – Vinyl & Photography at C/O Berlin.
“I do a lot of curiosity buying”, Bruce Springsteen was quoted once, “I buy it if I like the album cover, I buy it if I like the name of the band, anything that sparks my imagination.“ And it’s not difficult to relate to that, often enough the record sleeve itself is a work of art – although it will reveal its full congenial potential only in its capacity as a great music album’s cover. No legendary album without an equally legendary cover image; and there are plenty of examples throughout history. Many a great record cover has been copied, quoted, or referenced almost as often as the music tracks it represents.
It is therefore no surprise that many famous photographers of the 20th century have immortalized themselves on the record sleeves of great bands. Anton Corbijn’s black and white images of U2 for their “Joshua Tree” album are just as famous as the hit singles from the record. Cindy Lauper dancing barefoot for Annie Leibovitz on “She’s so unusual”. Or Jeff Wall’s intimate portrait of Iggy Pop for “Avenue B”; they’ve all become engrained in the collective memory of the music world. And they’ve played their part in making the vinyl record and analog photography fundamental media of the 20th century.
With no less than 500 exhibits C/O Berlin brings this enthralling exhibition to Germany for the first time in order to drill down on the unique correlations between musicians and photographers. Different thematic sections highlight the different approaches taken: Some renowned photographers were asked to shoot a picture specifically for an album, in other cases bands chose from existing photographs. And sometimes a single photo shooting marked the beginning of long artistic collaborations. Quite often there is a connection between image and music: they refer to each other or sought to cause a scandal by displaying graphic or polemic content. In other cases the record sleeve became an experimental canvas for artists who wanted to try out new techniques. Take for instance Andy Warhol’s silk-screen printing of a yellow banana on The Velvet Underground’s first album. Since most people stream or download music from the internet these days, the record cover has lost much of its significance. Even more so the current exhibition plays an important role in documenting and reviving the importance of this artistic correlation that coined much of 1960s to 2000s pop culture.
Total Records – Vinyl & Photography is on display at C/O Berlin until April 23, 2017. You can find C/O at Amerikahaus close to Zoologischer Garten. It’s open daily from 11 am through 8 pm and admission will set you back some 10€ (reduced: 6€). If you need further information check out their website. By the way: if you feel like digging your way through a huge pile of records yourself, go and check out our Top 5 Record Stores in Berlin.
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.