Cover design for ‘Life Before Death’ by R D Laing. His sonnets recited by him and set to music for Charisma Records. Link to CD web site. The back photograph from the Sleeve of this LP has been animated available on UTube, Follow Link. Track 6 on U Tube. Follow Link, full (warn) sleeve at 1’06”
Hag wrote in 1997 for the book ‘Memories of R D Laing Creative Destroyer’. Edited by Bob Mullan Published by Cassell 1997.
“Ronnie was an obliging and persevering subject in what was technically a demanding session. He was quite sombre, but with a wry sense of humour and clearly eager to create a good portrait.
On the following Monday, there was a production meeting, at which I presented some straight prints. My diary again “Laing, or should I say Ronnie, thought my picture was good, but his vanity stopped him thinking it suitable for the cover – everyone else thought it was, so he conceded, and is leaving it up to me”.
The record company was supposed to get permission to photograph the crystal skull, which they hadn’t and as the deadline was fast approaching it was agreed to go with a real skull, I wrote: “Work then, the skull. Faust lives, don’t expect Ronnie to like the finished picture. It’s going to be horrifically heavy, slightly worried of course about it being too heavy, but I mustn’t”.
I had a week to put it together. The use of a real skull had dramatically changed the quality of the image, and I was having a real struggle trying to make it ‘nice’. By the following Friday I had nothing. I had tried adding landscapes, his flesh and two different skulls, but to no avail. I was panicking. I took the night off and tried to relax. On the Saturday, one day before the deadline, I bit the bullet and decided to go for the eyes, the only logical solution. Much to my relief, it worked, and on the Sunday I took it to show Ronnie, who just lived around the corner. When he first saw it, he was amused and laughed, but had to sit down. He then worried about how gruesome it was, but I managed to persuade him that it fitted the record, which is somewhat gloomy and despondent.
The image was rather controversial for the record company. People either liked it or hated it, but throughout, Laing supported it. A pleasant straight portrait was used on the back cover to lessen the blow.
Ironically, what survives, as the strongest image is a straight print of the whole negative; Ronnie with his cuffs undone and the background running out, the parts that were not originally meant to be included in the frame”.
Combination print created by Hag by Combination printing. Surreal photography.