Some Things Change
What does it really take to get the shot? That’s the first question that came to mind when I saw Covers by the photographer Alex Bartsch. In this series, the Bartsch tracks down the locations for the original album art of 50 UK reggae sleeves, then photographs himself holding out the cover perfectly aligned with the surrounding environment.
With the help of Al “Fingers” Newman of One Love Books, Bartsch was able to identify and visit each location, expanding the horizons on the culturally formative, but sometimes overlooked genre of music that greatly influenced British popular culture.
Like many photographers, I can appreciate the behind the scenes effort it takes to make an image as much as the final product and Covers is no different. The simple act of holding up the the sleeve artwork and overlapping it with the original scene, we the viewers are able to see the larger context in which the image was taken.
Then I ask, What extends beyond the frame? This is both metaphorical question as much as a literal one. Not only does the work reveal some kind of formal and composition choices, but is also a study of place. What has changed within the fifty years since the cover images were taken and the rephotographed? In some cases, the images are nearly seamless transitions for past to present like in the case of Al Campbell’s Rainy Days (Covers #21). In other cases, the development of the cityscape changed enough to disrupt the viewer’s gaze. For instance the darkened, cleaved tree in the background of Jurassic Five’s Quality Control (Covers #79) has been removed.
Each image is a puzzle for the viewer to take notice of and contend with all the lives and all the art that has come before.