We've recently added some wonderful new prints by Karl Ferris to our archive. Karl is best known for his classic shots of Jimi Hendrix and Cream and recognised as the father of 'psychedelic' photography which he invented in the late 1960s. We caught up with Karl to find out more about his work and thoughts on music photography.
Jimi Hendrix, London, 1967 photographed by Karl Ferris
You are known as the principal innovator of 'psychedelic' photography, how did you come up with the idea? I got tired of black & white and normal photography and wanted to try something new. Something that more represented the Zeitgeist of the era. The whole lifestyle seemed to change in the summer of 1966. People were experimenting with mind expanding drugs and I was starting to respond to all of this. I was experimenting with how I photographed it all psychedelically using different filters and exposures. I also started to play with liquid light projections, making slides of coloured liquids to project over my photos.
Why do you think your images have become so iconic? Because my images really captured the artists and their music, my self invented psychedelic infrared colour technique, that no-one else has ever managed to replicate, represented the Trippy style of those times.
What do you think makes a great album cover and in the digital age is album art still important? I think a great album cover has an image that really represents the musicians and the music theme of the record. Album art is still important for the same promotional reasons as analogue. And thank god for vinyl records, so we can see the images as large as they are meant to be seen - 12x12".
Cream, 1967 photographed by Karl Ferris
We are delighted to add some of your fantastic images of Cream to our archive. What was it like working with them? I met Eric Clapton through one of my favourite models, Charlotte Martin, and he liked my work. We became friends and one day I brought Eric a preview copy of Jimi Hendrix's ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ which almost put him off playing for a while – as he thought he couldn't compare to Jimi – but we had a long talk about it when I next saw him, and not long after that he started composing Disraeli Gears. So, it all came good.
Eric invited me to take promotional photos for the new album including this shot. All those costumes and the painted instruments are by The Fool. Robert Stigwood, the Cream’s then manager, who had commissioned them directly.
Jimi Hendrix, 1967 by Karl Ferris
Is there a particular shot or photographer on Rockarchive you admire and why? Yes, my old friend Storm Thorgerson, the photo/design master - the Salvador Dali of album covers.
What advice would you give to music photographers starting out on their careers? Try to understand the motivation, music and style of the group, and start by taking some great unarranged performance shots and show them to the group. Then ask if they need more arranged promo shots for the press. Then later album covers.