One of the most inspirational bands of all time – Pixies – not only had amazing music, but also had some pretty impressive album photography. We’ll take a look at their most commercially successful album, Doolittle, which was released in April 1989.
Black Francis, the primary songwriter for Pixies, focused many of his lyrics on themes such as biblical violence, extraterrestrials, prostitutes and incest. He was strongly influenced by surrealist films such as David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou by Luís Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. In fact, the opening song on Doolittle directly refers to the most recognized scene from Un Chien Andalou (got me a movie ah ha ha ho / slicing up eyeballs ah ha ha ho).
The Doolittle album was the first in which the Pixies supplied the lyrics to the cover artist Vaughan Oliver and photographer Simon Larbalestier. Because of this, the collaborative duo could make the imagery much more relevant to each song. At the time Simon Larbalestier preferred to shoot in black and white, which is also evident in the previous Pixies albums; Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa.
His Doolittle photos have a definite feeling of silence and decay to them, and he has stated in interviews that he has an interest in shooting “empty spaces, desolation and loneliness” and that he has a “dark fascination in decay, texture, the macabre and surrealism and their visual expression in the resulting photographs.”
Everything you see in these album photographs was constructed from items that Larbalestier had collected. They were built from scratch as small sets and then photographed. Larbalestier shot everything in roughly two weeks and submitted about 15 main photographs, which were taken with a Rolleiflex SL66 with a 80/2.8 Planar lens. He used Agfapan 25 film. When the band management requested that he shoot some colour photos for the album, he proceeded to hand bleach the final prints to distinguish them from the original black and white shots. In the next two Pixies albums Bossanova and Trompe le Monde, he switched to shooting in colour.
Larbalestier’s photographs and Oliver’s overall design for the Pixies albums created a unique image for the band. The Pixies still use this style of imagery in their live shows today. And for their recently released Minotaur boxset, Larbalestier and Oliver returned to create a series of new images for the band, this time shooting in digital.
You can visit his website here.
And more photos here.
A short documentary from 1988:
And a Pixies music video: