Photographer Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell unearthed a treasure trove of photo art from the Hipgnosis archives after the death of close friend and Hipgnosis partner Storm Thorgerson. He’s compiled those images, some instantly familiar, some never before seen—along with the fascinating stories of the music legends they worked with—into the book Hipgnosis Portraits. The jacket art for 1976’s AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap above is an example of their innovative and surreal album art that upended an industry, and ultimately defined an era.
Pink Floyd founding member, early lead singer, guitarist and songwriter—and Powell’s close friend—Syd Barrett in London in 1970.
Hipgnosis amassed a collection of concept art that was never used commercially. In this 1970s photo, ”If Walls Could Talk,” the inner dialogue of an unhappily married couple plasters the walls.
London’s Hipgnosis photography and design studio in 1974, where Po Powell and Storm Thorgerson shot on film cameras including 35mm Pentaxes, Nikons, and old Rolleiflexes. (London, 1974)
Longtime pals Roger Waters, Po Powell and David Gilmour—pals since art school in Cambridge—chill out during a 1975 Pink Floyd tour stop.
The 1976 shot ”How Dare You!” imagines a roomful of people all on the phone with each other, instead of talking face to face—an eerily accurate foreshadowing of the digital age. The photo was inspired by a Norman Rockwell piece called The Gossips and a 10cc song called ”Don’t Hang Up.” The band recruited friends for the shoot.
What are Led Zeppelin looking so happy about? They’re watching a pretty girl’s striptease. Tension in the band was high by the time this photo was taken in Knebworth, U.K., in 1979, and the guys looked miserable to be there with each other—until Powell came up with the idea of bringing in some entertainment.
In 1974, Hipgnosis created a series of posters pro bono for the British theater company Lumiere & Son—an outfit founded by Powell’s mate at Cambridge, the writer David Gale—known for their outlandish, confrontational, and hilarious stage productions.
Powell snapped this 1975 image while shooting an album cover for Paul McCartney & Wings’ Venus and Mars in Inyo County, Calif. He remembers the time he spent with an uninhibited Paul and his wife Linda—drinking beers around a fire in the middle of the desert—as one of his most joyous shoots.
Storm Thorgerson shot this spoof program cover for The Who’s ”The Who Put The Boot In” tour. Keith Moon, pictured here with a guest singer in 1976 London, was legendary for his wacky (and often naked) antics.
Pink Floyd’s 1968 single ”Point Me At The Sky” was its first after the departure of founding member Syd Barrett, and the band welcomed David Gilmour and Roger Waters. The reformed band wore WWI aviator gear and posed in front of a Tiger Moth, an authentic wartime aerodrome, in Kent, U.K.
The photos on this contact sheet, from a shoot for the Rolling Stones album Goats Head Soup, never made it out of the dark room. These raw snapshots from 1973 are nonetheless fascinating—and just several of the hundreds unseen by anyone until Powell rediscovered them a couple of years ago.
Sad Café’s 1978 Misplaced Ideals album cover was the work of a hardened latex mask stretched over the model’s face, and the magic touch of a movie makeup artist. The concept originated from Kirk Douglas’ 1963 film The List of Adrian Messenger, in which Douglas’ character wears disguises to commit murders.
For more on the Hipgnosis story, read our Q&A with Aubrey ”Po” Powell