Solange Knowles has described her third album as “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing”. It’s both an intensely personal record and a reflection on black life and racism in America.
The album’s cover features an image of Solange taken by photographer and art director Carlota Guerrero. Solange is pictured with bare shoulders, her hair down and filled with colourful clips. There’s an intimacy to it and a sense of empowerment: both the cover and video for track Don’t Touch My Hair – which featured women sporting Afros, waves, curls and braids – inspired many women of colour to share images of their own hair on social media using the hashtag #donttouchmyhair.
The picture was taken before a photo shoot in New York: “Neal, [Solange’s hairdresser], had put clips in her hair to give it waves, and we thought they looked cool so we decided to shoot them,” says Guerrero. “We only took two shots of that … but Solange fell in love with the image and decided she wanted to use it for the cover.”
Guerrero was asked to work on A Seat at the Table after Solange spotted her work on Instagram. The photographer was invited to art direct the album and collaborate with Solange and her husband Alan Ferguson on the videos for Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky (both directed by Ferguson).
She spent a month travelling through New Orleans and New Mexico, where the videos were filmed, and shot a series of stunning images along the way. Her photographs capture the surrounding landscape and architecture, and show Solange and her dancers dressed in a range of outfits.
The images are compiled in an art book, designed by Barcelona studio Querida, which is available to purchase on Solange’s website and features images alongside lyrics arranged like concrete poetry. It is also available to read online for free.
“Solange came to me with a very clear idea of what she wanted,” adds Guerrero. “She had a strong conceptual message she wanted to get across … and I helped her translate that into a beautiful visual language. The album is about the black community, about pain, race, grief … and there’s a lot of suffering in it … but it’s also about strength and solidarity,” she says.