Quick menu

Pink Floyd Exhibition 'Their Mortal Remains' Celebrates their Sound, Visuals & The Influence Of Storm Thorgerson

Alternative version of the image designed to advertise the Pink Floyd back catalogue in 1997 designed by © Storm Thorgerson - (This image is available to buy below)

Opening at London’s TheiV&A Museum this weekend, is 'Their Mortal Remains', a celebration of the music, visuals, and influence of Pink Floyd. They’re a band who have not only scorched their sounds into culture’s collective unconscious, but their iconic imagery is part of our visual vernacular too.

And the people who helped form much of Pink Floyd’s visual identity, right from the band’s genesis, is long-term creative collaborators and partners Hipgnosis. The agency was founded by the late Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, with Peter Christopherson later joining them too. The name comes from some graffiti that was scrawled on the door of their London studio by Syd Barrett.

Like many of the Pink Floyd band members they were from Cambridge, and were childhood friends of the band. Thorgerson a former classmate of Roger Waters and close friend of Barrett’s.

'A Saucerful of Secrets' album cover by © Hipgnosis

Their Mortal Remains pays due acknowledgement to their influence when it comes to the celebrated visuals associated with the group. By detailing the LP covers Hipgnosis designed, starting with 1968’s A Saucerful Of Secrets, Pink Floyd’s second studio album. Thorgerson included a nod to Marvel’s Dr. Strange—who made his comic debut in 1967—in the collaged cover, with Dr. Strange appearing (albeit very hidden) on the right hand side.

“The cover is an attempt to represent things that the band was interested in, collectively and individually, presented in a manner that was commensurate with the music.” Thorgerson has said in an interview. “Swirly, blurred edges into red astrology/Dr. Strange images merging into images, a million miles away from certain pharmaceutical experiences. Beginning with Saucerful, they were beginning to experiment with more extended pieces and the music would cascade and change from thing into thing.”

Alternative version cover art for Pink Floyd's fifth studio album Atom Heart Mother. © Storm Thorgerson - (This image is available to buy below)

Also in the exhibition is Hipgnosis’ cover for Atom Heart Mother inspired, allegedly, by Warhol’s Cow screen print. In a 40th anniversary version of the cover, Thorgerson recreated the cow image but using a wire frame sculpture in a nod to CGI.

Also on show, as a large wall image, reflected appropriately in a mirror to create even more confusion, is the cover for Pink Floyd's album Ummagumma which uses the Droste effect. But in Thorgerson’s design each iteration of the image within an image sees the band switch places.

And, of course, there’s one of—if not the—most iconic album covers of all time, the prism spectrum from The Dark Side of the Moon, which is presented as a unique hologram in the show. The exhibition also features a replica of a mechanical drawing of the cover, and explains that Thorgerson took inspiration for it from a physics textbook illustration which showed light shining through a glass paperweight creating a rainbow. Graphic designer George Hardie illustrated the design. “The prism refracted into a spectrum belongs to everybody.” Thorgerson has said.

Inner sleeve art for Pink Floyd's seminal album 'Wish You Were Here'. © Storm Thorgerson - (This image is available to buy below)

There’s also a whole room of the exhibition dedicated to the album Wish You Were Here, whose theme of absence runs through the record. It also features in the accompanying imagery. Like in the image in the inner sleeve, showing a woman absent on first appearance—all you can see is a red veil until you look harder.

There’s also the famous cover image, which features stuntman Ronny Rondell in a flaming suit shaking hands with another businessman, both making a deal, it’s a critic of the record industry. “The concept was one of Storm’s visual puns” Powell has said. “It was a very ’70s expression—‘Man I’ve been burned’— as in ripped off.” Hipgnosis famously insisted in staging such surreal and improbable scenes ‘for real,’ to enhance the power of the image.

They did this not only with the burning suit, which was shot 15 times to get it right, but also with the image of a man diving into water. Most of his body is absent, as are any waves or ripples on the water. The image was shot at Mono Lake in California, with the diver holding a yoga pose underwater while wearing breathing equipment.

And the back cover shows a featureless record salesman in a bowler hat who Thorgerson says “is morally absent, lacks integrity, is not really who he thinks he is, and is therefore absent...or faceless.”

Alternative version of the cover artwork for Pink Floyd's 1994 album 'Division Bell' designed by © Storm Thorgerson and shot in a field near Cambridge - (This image is available to buy below)

Other imagery included is Hipgnosis’ later work for the band, including their designs for the Division Bell album—the two divided steel heads—and the imagery for the A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour and album.

Noting the achievements of Hipgnosis the exhibition says, “Alongside storytelling, quirky humor, Surrealism and visual puns feature frequently in Hipgnosis’ designs. Their photographic-based works were often captured on the square format Hasselblad camera, which perfectly fitted the 12-inch vinyl cover and gatefold sleeves. In an era long before Photoshop Hipgnosis created stunningly surreal effects, using multiple exposures, airbrushing, cut and paste techniques, and often images ‘staged’ for real. They instigated a radical departure from traditional band portrait covers.”

"Many people agree that Storm Thorgerson is the best album designer in the world. Look at the evidence. By which I mean look at your collection of LPs." Douglas Adams from ’Eye of the Storm’ 2000.

Sadly Storm Thorgerson died in 2013, but it’s satisfying to know he worked with the band up until his death. And his legacy lives on not just in his work, but Hipgnosis too continues as a design studio to this day, headed up by Powell who was integral in shaping the layout and design of the exhibition.

Photographer and founder of Rockarchive Jill Furmanovsky was in conversation with the late Storm Thorgerson and produced a wonderful informal video of the event.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer many of these iconic images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here. There are many more Storm Thorgerson images relating to Pink Floyd and his other iconic album art available here.

'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' album art designs. Photographer © Storm Thorgerson recalled, "The idea of beds for the Momentary Lapse cover came from a line of lyric - ‘Visions of an empty bed’ (Yet Another Movie) it was more than a momentary lapse, I can tell you, more like a day of complete lunacy." - (This image is available to buy)

Version of the Interstellar poster art devised for the 2003 Pink Floyd exhibition in Paris. Photographer © Storm Thorgerson - (This image is available to buy)

Related items