The Back Story behind that Pink Floyd Back Catalogue Poster
Yes, it's The Classic 1997 Pink Floyd “Back” Catalogue (Sorry, not sorry)
This classic picture commissioned by EMI in 1997, to cleverly advertise the release of the “back” catalogue of Pink Floyd was taken at a private indoor pool in Putney (London Borough of Wandsworth) by photographer Tony May in 1996. The unknown nude models had the cover art of six Pink Floyd albums painted onto their backs by artist Phyllis Cohen.
The original concept and design of painting the Pink Floyd album covers on the backs of models was conceived by Finlay Cowan who worked closely with long-time Pink Floyd graphic artist Storm Thorgerson.
I love celebrating good art and beautiful artists and in this particular piece it's not just the photographer and visionary who made it all happen, but it's the beautiful women also...
In case you don’t know what Pink Floyd albums these are, i.e. from which the graphics were taken from, I've broke it down for you below with the model names included. You can even click on each one and it goes to the album in Spotify. You're welcome.
From left to right…
Atom Heart Mother (1970) – model: Pauline Swain
Relics (compilation – 1971) – model: Julia Ashbury
Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) – model: Jackie St. Clair
Wish You Were Here (1975) – model: Mandy Lomax
The Wall (1979) – model: Jo Caine
Animals (1977) – model: Kimberley Cowell
Here is an alternate shot with the models positioned differently and the “Relics” girl (Julia) missing from the photo..
Here’s an excerpt from ‘Mind over Matter: the Images of Pink Floyd‘, by Storm Thorgerson. Sanctuary Publishing.
In talking about the photo Thorgerson said,
“It came about when we were commissioned to advertise the back catalogue of Pink Floyd in 1996. There’s an incredible sense of humour in the Floyd camp, and they decided that the back catalogue should be literally, the catalogue on the backs.” “So they commissioned me to photograph it, for a promotional poster.”
“It was difficult to know how to use the album cover images again. You can’t distort them too much, or they become unrecognisable. The “backs” idea seemed to be a nice way to re-present the images in a slightly different context, but still relatively clearly. It took us forever to paint the girls: they had to be still for five or six hours while their backs were painted by the very expert Phyllis Cohen.”
Finally Thorgerson added,
“The covers were originally going to be painted on the backs of boys and girls, but that presented us with a problem, because each back is representing an album cover, and album covers are all the same size and shape. We needed uniformity, and girls and boys’ backs are obviously quite different. We had to choose one or the other, and we chose girls – probably because we’re boys. It is a questionable thing on a PC level, and the photo has received some critical observations – most particularly by my partner. But most women I’ve shown it to don’t mind it. I just think that girls backs are more elegant than men’s backs, and I was going for elegance and shape here.”
"Mind over Matter" is a wicked little book. Storm Thorgerson, who died in 2013, was a world-famous designer whose memoirs of his time spent with Pink Floyd are combined with all the artwork he created to represent the band at each stage of their career. Storm revisited the work he created for the albums and offers insights into the work that went into the creation of this legendary album art. Sadly I lost this book in a divorce, so if you'd like to send me a copy of it, you're my damn hero.
What are the girls up to these days?
Not easy to track their stories, but one of my favourite finds is that of Pauline Swain (the blonde lady modelling Atom Heart Mother. Featured at age 58 in 'Don’t dare tell us we’re too old for bikinis!' These women over the age of 40 say they feel more confident about their bodies now than in their 20s.
Some levels of positivity never get old. This art piece has been inspiring me on so many levels.