Behind the camera: Album Cover Artists with Dana Washington

The past couple of years have been fairly good to the music industry, with talent bursting through from Garageband tracks made in bedrooms, to crews of producers, rappers, singers and visual artists being formed all over.

Reporter: Emily Fortune | Sub-Editor: Anisha Chowdhury

Washington's artwork for Versus' | (Dana Washington)

Washington’s artwork for Versis’ ‘Copaesthetic EP’  | (Dana Washington)

Artists have become far more reachable via social media, leading to constant collaborating, especially for album artwork. From photographers, graphic designers and even painters, album cover artists have a wealth of talent to create for, in return leading to some of the most influential art.

The last few years have seen album cover art take on issues such as police brutality with Denis Rouvre’s image for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, or even Santigold’s ‘99¢’ which shows her shrink-wrapped with her personal belongings in a Barbie-esque fashion, representing the cold side to the music business.

However, in order to learn a little bit more about the process of creating album artwork, Voice of London talked to photographer and writer Dana Washington. The LA-based creative answered some questions about her own work and what she thinks of the current scene:

Album artwork for | (Dana Washington)

Album artwork for Tiffany Gouche’s ‘Pillow Talk’ | (Dana Washington)

Q: How did you get into shooting for album artwork?

Social media. In 2015, I was approached to shoot promotional portraits for SiR. It was tricky because he preferred to keep his identity discreet, I was shooting on a film medium format, and I honestly wasn’t trying to be experimental with it. One of the images was used for his Seven Sunday’s project. That was the start of photographing album covers.

Q: What’s your favourite cover you’ve done so far and why?

My favourite album cover has to be Tiffany Gouché’s Pillow Talk. During that shoot, she was extremely self-secure and confident, I didn’t have to take twenty shots to get the right photograph. If I remember correctly, I took two shots and told her, “This is the cover…That was easy!” She trusted me, and that makes the process much less drawn out.

Q: What kind of musicians do you like to work with?

If the music is good and their intentions are pure, then I’m open to work.

Q: How can the genre of music you’re making the artwork for inspire your work? Any examples?

In 2015, I was working on Versis’ copæsthetic EP. We had the idea to have black and white portraits interpret the story and emotion of each song. The entire project is very reflective, slowed down, and melancholic. Interestingly enough, I was going through my own dark period during that time, I found it easy to connect and produce the images.

Q: What are your top 3 favourite album/EP etc covers?

I’m a big fan of Blue Note Record album covers. Everything that Mati Klarwein has done, and I love the simplicity of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope.

Q: What kind of music do you usually create artwork for?

As of now, I’ve only worked with R&B/Soul and Hip-Hop artists.

Q: What was, in your opinion, the best album artwork to come out of 2016? Why? 

My personal favourite is Jory Lee Cordy’s portrait for Ty Dolla $ign’s Free TC. It’s matter of fact. It makes me feel. I understand the magnitude of having a family member imprisoned – both literal and figurative.


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