ACHOF Featured Artist Portfolio – Photographer Paul Wakefield
When I do research for the ACHOF site, it is inevitable that I come across things that side-track me from the searches I do in order to be able to give you as much information as I can about the album cover artists featured within our ever-expanding database. A few weeks back, I was looking for some information on a prog-rock illustrator (quite honestly, I can’t recall just who at the moment) when one link led me to a video on YouTube showing the band YES in concert, which then led me to a Jon Anderson video, and hearing the singer’s alto-tenor on that video tripped a wire in my head that reminded me that I hadn’t heard the song “So Long Ago, So Clear” that the group’s long-time vocalist had recorded with keyboard virtuoso Vangelis. The track appeared on the composer’s 1975 album titled Heaven And Hell which, to those of you with working long-term memories will recall, included music that was used as the theme music to the popular Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series.
While reading the Wiki entry on the record, it reminded me that the album’s cover image – a pair of “angelic”, winged hands floating above a keyboard on top of a fiery background – was one that had always impressed me, and so I set about tracking down the artist(s) who’d created the fantastic cover with the hopes that he/she/they’d be able to share a bit more about how it was made. Some additional research brought me to Paul Wakefield, who confirmed that this work was, in fact, his. Of course, as it always seems in Album Coverland, the cover artist had also been responsible for a number of other just-as-impressive album packages, including two of my favorite Supertramp images – those for 1974’s hit record Crime of the Century and its also-popular 1975 follow-up LP, Crisis? What Crisis?. Based on his broad-based portfolio, I knew at that point that I’d want to work with Paul to show off more of his work and let our readers know more about the artist and what he’s been up to lately.
Although Paul hasn’t worked on album covers in a while, I had reached him right after he’d received a prestigious award for a new book of his landscape images (titled The Landscape), and so he’d been hit with a number of requests for interviews, but my query – obviously not knowing that he’d gone on to become a landscape photographer of some renown – seemed to intrigue him and a subsequent series of emails back and forth between my office and Paul’s studio in the UK allowed him to dig into his personal memory bank (and file archives) to unearth some very interesting details about the productions, and the people involved, that created a portfolio of classic album cover images.
In the words of the artist, Paul Wakefield – Interviewed via email, December, 2014
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
I’m pretty sure this was the first LP cover I did. The art-director, Fabio Nicoli, was great fun but unpredictable. He asked me to come into the studio while the guys were recording and I also read the lyrics, and it was a combination of the line “when they haunt me and taunt me in my cage” from the song Asylum and asking myself what an appropriate sentence could be for “the crime of the century”. I came up with quite a few ideas – one being a stabbed teddy-bear in an alleyway, with all its guts spilling out (those were the days!). Needless to say, they didn’t go for that one.
Another was a prison cell window floating in space with a person silently screaming through the bars.
They liked that and so I made two further drawings (see above) and, after a bit more deliberation, we decided on the idea of both hands on the bars, as it shows a resignation to fate that the other didn’t have. It felt like there would be no reprieve.
A friend made the set of polished aluminum bars and welded it to a stand. The hands are my twin brother’s, whitened with stage make-up. There was no Photoshop or digital then, and so I had to do it all either in-camera or as a cut and paste print retouch. I chose to do it as a double exposure in-camera, as I’d been working that method for a couple of years already. Once it was all set up, I drew the bars and hands on the ground-glass screen – my brother having to keep very still, while I then shot 12 sheets of transparency film on an old mahogany 5X7 camera that once belonged to an Indian Maharaja. The film was taped into the hinged wooden dark-slides to stop them moving during the whole process. I then made a starscape by pricking various sized holes in a 30X40 inch piece of black card. I placed the camera in front of this, lit from behind, and then had to cover up all the holes that were inside the drawn area of bars/hands to avoid double-exposing over the image already recorded on film. During the whole shoot, the studio was blacked out. I then processed the double exposed sheets of film, and I think there were six sheets that were pretty well perfect. At one point, it was intended to be a gate-fold, and so I shot the guys in the studio in their underwear holding dress suits and top-hats – God knows why.
Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis?
This was again with Fabio, and the title came from the UK being in crisis during the 3-day working week in 1974-75 under the Conservative Government. So this guy is sunning himself in an industrial cityscape as if he has no problems, while the rest of the country is in bad shape. I drove to the Welsh mining valleys with Fabio in a chauffeured limo (he did nothing by halves). I shot various locations and then we photographed the model and set in the studio afterwards. Dick Ward then put the images together as a cut and paste print retouch.
Vangelis – Heaven and Hell
I worked on this cover with art director Mike Doud and designer Geoff Halpin. Mike was running a company called AGI (Album Graphics, Inc.), and Geoff’s wife Linda was Mike’s PA. They were great times, and we did quite a lot of work together. Mike was another very unusual and creative guy and Geoff was the best typographer around (and still is doing brilliant work).
I have an original sketch of the cover (see above), so I’m not entirely sure whose concept it was – it’s not really that important as ideas were always bounced around. I went to meet Vangelis in his palatial apartment near Hyde Park in London. He was a huge imposing figure and very strident. He insisted that we use his hands – which were massive and not particularly attractive – for the cover image, and so we made plaster casts and then cast them in Perspex (cast acrylic). Those were then polished to a clear high shine, which made his hands look slightly slimmer than they actually were. I made the birds wings from feathers that I bought from a supplier of fly-tying materials for fishing flies. I already had a pair of starling wings the correct size to use as a guide, so it wasn’t too difficult. I supported the hands on Perspex rods so that no support would show while they hovered over the keyboard. The background color and lighting were changed for each image, with dry-ice being used for the “Hell” shot. Vangelis insisted on keeping the hands and wings we used in the production…
City Boy – Dinner at the Ritz
I did this with Geoff Halpin. I’m not sure if there was an art director but, again, I have an original sketch (see above) which we finally shot – not as the full room-set shown in the sketch, but with just a table and mirror.
Here’s a set-up sketch with my notes at the time. It was quite tricky shot to set up. The plates, candlesticks and champagne bucket were all angled and then supported by Plasticine modeling clay. After that, the floating knives and forks and the champagne flute were glued to stiff strong wire stuck through the damask tablecloth. Again, there was no Photoshop or digital tools available, so it all had to work as one shot. The mirror consisted of four triangular sections of strong-but-pliable mirrored acetate that were pulled back as shown in the sketch and taped together to hold, and then supported behind. I did a few test sheets to get the lighting right and then the glass was pulled back using very fine fishing line. You’ll note that it says “cotton” in my sketch, but that ended up being too visible and not strong enough for our needs. I was hoping to get the perfect line of liquid on the first attempt, as the cloth would have been stained from then on. I got lucky, and that was the first sheet. For the back cover, I shot a load of separate images of all the cover elements, and I think Geoff must have collaged them altogether. I also photographed the band members at spot-lit tables with an art-deco lamp, as if set in a nightclub.
Jack Lancaster & Robin Lumley – Marscape
This was another collaboration with Geoff. I built a small set in the studio – about six to seven feet wide – and used two white glass globes that were ceiling lights sprayed to look like planets. Geoff designed the type and had it printed onto to a sheet of film so that the type was clear in an area that was opaque. We then placed red-and-blue-colored gels over the clear type and put it on a flat light source. I then made two exposures: one straight to give a hard-edged image, and one with a piece of fine denier stocking over the lens to produce the glow so that it appears to be a neon sign.
I remember doing another image for the same job (above), but they decided to keep it simple. That consisted of a pair of winged feet and legs balanced on a red planet – Mars – done in a similar fashion to Supertramp’s Crime – but using my brother’s legs this time. I spray painted the starling wings I already had that I’d used as a reference for the Vangelis Heaven And Hell cover.
Siouxie and the Banshees – The Scream
The art director on the project being Jill Mumford. The idea for this cover was Siouxie Sioux’s. I met her and the band to discuss what they wanted. The idea was to shoot disquieting and unnerving images underwater in a swimming pool – you can’t scream underwater. I wanted to be able to completely control the lighting, and so an indoor pool was the only option. I scouted quite a few pools, but when I saw this pool in the YMCA in Central London, which was dark blue tiled with light blue lane stripes instead of the normal reverse colors, I knew it was the ideal location. I wanted to give it an eerie underwater night-time feel, and this setting was perfect. We used a number of 1000K and 2000K lights around the pool edge. I used school kids as models and they pretty well ran riot. I think modern day health and safety rules might have something to say about doing something similar now. I photographed underwater, using a Hasselblad in an underwater housing as well as a Nikonos. As you only got 12 images on the Hasselblad before having to change film – a lengthy process with an underwater housing – I mostly used the Nikonos, which has 36 exposures on each roll. It wasn’t as good quality, but it was the atmosphere we were mostly after and, in fact, the Nikonos proved best for that. Both front and back images were from that camera.
Here are 2 out-takes (above) – one taken with the Hasselblad (top) and one shot with the Nikonos (bottom).
Rick Wakeman – Rhapsodies
I’d already done some work with Mike Ross at A&M Records, the art director who followed on from Fabio. Again, I’m not sure who came up with the concept – it probably resulted from a discussion between Mike and myself. I had the mannequin of the little girl already, so we took her out with us to Montrieux where we stayed with Rick in his house there. We took the 2 adult mannequins, the stuffed dog and rolls of silver-foil and balls of cord – it was quite a lot of strange-looking baggage that caused a few wry looks at both airports. The model of the Matterhorn was cut out of polystyrene and put in later. All the mannequins were wrapped in silver-foil and then tied with white cord once we were there – quite possibly “a bondage thing” going on there.
Rick Wakeman – Rhapsodies (back cover)
I had other mannequin parts also – a face, hands (as seen in the top photo, above) and legs and high heels (as seen in the bottom image) which were also foil wrapped and put in the snow. I did quite a few alternative images in case they were needed at a later date. I don’t recall if they were used or not, but these two were and still are my favorite images from that job.
Sally Oldfield – Water Bearer
I’ve included this cover as it was the catalyst for the change in direction of my work and career. In the early 80s, I started working for advertising agencies, photographing primarily outside, only going back into the studio very rarely if a small element within the picture needed to be shot in the studio. By now, I’d spent about six years photographing mostly in the studio, and I was really missing being out in the landscape. I’d originally taken up photography to photograph the landscape, but got sidetracked into studio/surreal/problem- solving work as it was so challenging and interesting. I did this cover with fellow photographer Martin Poole, and we went to a very steep gorge in south Wales to shoot it. Later, Martin added some hand-tinting to the water. I was completely amazed by the beauty of this area and still go back frequently to continue making photographs there. It culminated in 1982 with the release of my first book of landscapes with writer Jan Morris – Wales: The First Place.
I did three more books with Jan in the 1980s, and have just completed my latest book titled The Landscape (see above) with essays by Robert Macfarlane, Andrew Wilton and Anthony Connelly. It was published by Envisage Books in 2014.
About the Featured Artist, Paul Wakefield – (b. 1949 in Hong Kong, China)
After his release from a Japanese POW camp during World War 2, Paul’s father took on a position in the Hong Kong government, with son Paul being born several years later. He was schooled there until the age of 14, when he moved back to his family’s native U.K. to attend boarding school there. His first exposure to photography came at the age of 12 when, with his father’s Zeiss camera, he took photos of a troop of monkeys he saw often near his home (the photos were not good, he admits). As nature and wildlife were his main interests at the time, he tried again by shooting photos of the caged birds at the Botanical Gardens. These, too, were not good, but he was intrigued with the possibilities and felt that he could, with practice, overcome his lack of technical skill with a camera.
When he arrived at his U.K. boarding school, he spent a lot of time looking at the photography found in magazines such as Life and National Geographic, trying to decode the secrets of the photos that impressed him and, after spending the next five years “within a system of mindless authority” (i.e., his boarding school), he found himself making the decision to focus all of his attention on learning what he needed to pursue his passion for beautiful imagery and headed for Art school. He spent a year – 1969-70 – doing a general “foundation course” at the Bournemouth & Poole College of Art, and then the next 3 years in photography courses at the Birmingham College of Art, graduating with a BA in Photography in 1973.
During his final year in school, Paul moved to London and began knocking on doors at publishing companies, looking to get freelance jobs. Armed with those commissions, he’d bring that work back to the studios at his school, working on them during the week. He’s been a freelancer ever since, spending the first nine years of his professional career bringing his slightly-surreal approach to photography to his work for clients in the publishing, music and design industries, with his first record cover being the image for Supertramp’s hit 1974 studio LP, Crime of the Century.
In 1978, Paul’s love of Nature and landscapes was rekindled when he went to photograph singer Sally Oldfield near a waterfall in Wales for her debut record titled Water Bearer. He continued to photograph the beautiful Welsh landscape and those photos served as the basis for his first book with British historian and writer Jan Morris, Wales: The First Place, published in 1982. This was also about the time that he expanded his practice to include photographing for advertising agencies, which he continues to do today, with his portfolio growing to include work for clients such as Absolut Vodka, Aigle Clothing, Audi, Bank of America, Barclays Bank, BMW, Glenfiddich, Harley-Davidson, Jameson, Mercedez-Benz, New Balance, Smirnoff, Philipe Stark, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Toyota, Volkswagen and many others (see sample images, below).
His photos have been featured in several more books, including Britain: A World By Itself (first published in 1984); Scotland: The Place of Visions (with Jan Morris) 1986; Ireland: Your Only Place (with Jan Morris) 1988 and his latest, titled The Landscape, published in 2014 with a foreword by Robert Macfarlane and an intro by Andrew Wilton.
His work has been included in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.K., the U.S. and Japan, including shows at the Zelda Cheatle Gallery in London, London’s Maritime Museum, the Kodak Gallery in Tokyo, the Hendershot Gallery in NYC and the Redfern Gallery in London.
Throughout his career, Wakefield has been honored with a series of notable awards, including a D&AD Silver award in 1990 for his work for Dunlop Tires; Association of Photographers (AOP) Gold and Silver Awards in 1997 and 1998; Communication Arts awards in 1998, 2004 and 2005; a 2008 Grand Prix de L’APPM & 1st Prix Club de Directuers Arte for an Aigle Clothing campaign; a Creativity International Awards Silver for his campaign for Air Mauritius and, most-recently, the 2014 International Photography Award in the “Nature Books” category for his book The Landscape.
Paul now sells his fine-art photographic prints through The Redfern Gallery in London. More on this artist can be found on his web site at http://www.paulwakefield.co.uk
All images featured in this story are Copyright 1974 – 2014 Paul Wakefield – All rights reserved – and are used by the artist’s permission. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2014 – Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com (www.albumcoverhalloffame.com) & RockPoP Productions – All rights reserved.