Giugno 13, 2024


According to the Fashion Textile Museum, the four most iconic covers of the late 60s and early 70s are Their Satanic Majesties Request by Rolling Stones, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by Beatles, Disraeli Gears by Cream and The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd.

FC: I read that the idea of calling you for the cover photo came from John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins. It is true?

VS: No not true, John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins and the UFO Club had nothing to do with the calling of The Piper record cover photo session. I was approached by Syd and the other members of the band at an event in London. They were finishing their first album and asked me if I could shoot the album cover photo. 

FC: I know that the “famous” lens was given to you by George Harrison. Was it a novelty to use it in that shot or had you already used it for other photos? 

VS: George gave me the prism lens because he did not know what to do with it. I never used it and did not know what to do with it. So it was forgotten and left to gathering dust in a cupboard in my studio.

FC: Before the photo session had you ever seen Pink Floyd in concert?

VS: No, I had never seen them!

FC: The cover of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has become a symbol of psychedelia. Would you ever have thought that?

VS: No, not at all. On the contrary I did not think the album would be successful as it was alien to the sounds of the 60’s but I was wrong. 

FC: What were Pink Floyd like in 1967? Do you have any anecdotes to tell about that photo session?

VS: The Floyd were a new band, Syd was the spokesman for the band. I asked them to send me a copy of their new album. After listening to the tracks the music surprised and puzzled me, it was very different to the sounds of the time. The concept and design of the cover photo was left up to me as photographer, art director and stylist. Listened to the album tracks for many days I came up with nothing – a complete blank? There were no computers at the time and special effects in the labs cost huge amount of money which the band did not have. Finally the prism lens came into focus in my mind, it was the only thing that seemed to complemented the psychedelic Piper music, so I decided to use it, for the first time.

A shot from The Piper photo sessions © Vic Singh

FC: Did you choose their clothing for the photo or was it random?

VS: Psychedelic type clothes were in fashion at the time and resonated with the ‘Piper’ music and the prism lens so I asked the band and their manager to bring a good selection for the shoot. There was nothing random about the shoot. Syd and the band members tried on different outfits and I positioned them on a plain background. The prism lens split the images and made them overlap fading & softening the overlapping areas, choosing the contrasty and colourful outfits added contrast and depth to the images. The positioning of the four figures was critical. They changed positions and outfits until I was happy with the polaroids taken with my Hasselblad camera finally shooting on Kodak Ektachrome Color film. 

FC: At the time you photographed models and this cover was something different from what you did. Have you created other covers for music or have you returned to working for fashion?

VS: Worked for the fashion industry as a freelance from my photo studio in London and was not strictly a music photographer. It was ‘The Swinging Sixties’ and I socially mixed with other artists from the music, fashion, film and photo industries. Was friendly with The Beatles, Chris Blackwell owner of Island Records and many others more on a social level. Worked on some records and video for early Island Records and other bands.

FC: Did you meet Pink Floyd any other times after 1967?

VS: No, I haven’t seen them again.

FC: Are you working on any new projects these days?

VS: Yes at present building a new website (site built by artist for art) showing classic analog photographs and modern Ai photos. In recent years have worked as artist with photographs and film.

Interview by Francesco Madonia. Translation edited by Matteo Gherardi. All images courtesy of Vic Singh.