Dinosaurs and balloons

Storm Thorgerson with John Woods

Photo: James Royall

Tuesday 21st July, 2009 | Posted by Anonymous

Even on a humid summer evening in July the Connecting Conversations event with graphic designer Storm Thorgerson drew a sizeable crowd, as evidenced by the extra seats that were put out last minute and a call from the wine pourers to bring in extra supplies.

The audience was eager and thirsty, and who could blame them. Storm Thorgerson, in conversation with psychoanalytic psychotherapist John Woods, has designed music album covers for the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, The Cranberries and Muse among others. Storm confidently described himself to the audience as "absurd and narcissistic", and amused us with a story of how the manager of Pink Floyd recently called him "unreasonable". Young designers make him `puke’.

Admitting that he was probably a "dinosaur, a dying breed", nevertheless he gave fascinating examples of his “extallations”, for example, for Wake up and smell the coffee, stacking hundreds of red footballs in a cage high above the beach where a man in bed is woken by their sudden release, as they bounce toward him. Or, for Division Bell, building great sculptures of heads, and photographing them in a field with Ely cathedral in the background.

Storm espouses the philosophy of “doing it for real”, using computers only when appropriate, for “comping”, but not for design or execution. However we did wonder if he was pulling our leg with his description of “helicopter topiary” for the picture Tree of Half Life.

Storm talked through a selection of images, and we learned how he gets to the point of producing an album cover that a band will like. Listening to their music is very important, but so is an understanding of the band's dynamics, and other connections of his own. It is not always possible to "explain" why the end result album cover turns out how it does. It is of course important that the band likes it, but it can happen that they don’t. John Woods described how in his view the pictures really stand on their own, and attempted to pursue the question of the source of some of the images. Storm admitted that occasionally they come from the state between sleeping and waking, but he also wished that more would come easily in dreams. Freud`s concept of Free Association was invoked by John, and wondered about themes of death, loss, man's relationship with nature, but Storm preferred to privilege his own sense of “what looks right”.

And in an act which probably summed up Thorgerson`s creativity, opportunism, and wit, he staged a photograph of the entire audience releasing many coloured balloons. We await the result!

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