Aubrey Powell’s new book reveals untold stories from the Hipgnosis archive

Through The Prism transports readers back to the halcyon days of rock ‘n’ roll via the studio’s iconic album cover designs for the likes of Pink Floyd

Founded in 1968 by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, Storm Thorgerson and Peter Christopherson, Hipgnosis quickly established itself as the studio behind classic record sleeves for the likes of AC/DC, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, and more.

In the years since he stopped producing work as part of Hipgnosis, Powell has been responsible for designing and curating the record-breaking V&A exhibition Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, along with writing a number of books on album cover design.

Top: The crossroads at Dimmet, Texas, for PolyGram’s A World Atlas of Music ad campaign. Above: Hipgnosis’ first album cover, Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968
Pink Floyd photographed in infrared, Hampstead Heath, London, 1968. All images: Aubrey Powell © Hipgnosis Ltd (unless otherwise stated)

The designer’s new book, Through The Prism, presents brutally honest, entertaining and revealing insider stories from his Hipgnosis days. Featuring an eclectic cast of characters, it covers everything from surviving drug busts to how he and Thorgerson (who died in 2013) became an effective creative partnership despite their often volatile relationship.

Readers can also expect rich detail on the creative process behind some of the duo’s most enduring designs. Powell’s own photographs from the time illustrate everything from the inflatable pig floating in between the towers of Battersea Power Station from the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, through to a snap of Syd Barrett sitting in the lotus position that was later used on a repackaging of his solo albums.

Hipgnosis’ cover design for a 1974 repackaging of Syd Barrett’s solo albums
Syd Barrett in lotus position; unused photograph, Earl’s Court, London, 1969

The enduring magic of the studio’s designs today arguably lies in their commitment to using real objects or photographing actual events, thereby creating impossible pictures in a distinctly Hipgnosis way.

As Powell said in a 2013 interview with CR, “There’s an atmosphere to it. Everything had to be in-situ and had to be to a size and scale of the idea. Of course, you can Photoshop everything in these days, but you know what? It doesn’t look as good as the real thing.”

Photograph for the Pink Floyd The Meaning of Life postcard © Pink Floyd Music Ltd
The picture that wrapped around Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon album cover © Pink Floyd Music Ltd

Through The Prism: Untold Rock Stories from the Hipgnosis Archive is published by Thames & Hudson;