Marcus Keef was the phenomenal photographer behind some of the most iconic albums of 70’s heavy/underground rock. He did covers for Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart, Colosseum, Manfred Mann, David Bowie, Uriah Heep, and more and you can see a sample of his portfolio here.
Marcus Keef was a British photographer who in the early 70s became known for his moody, atmospheric, and often creepy album cover art. He is most closely associated with the work he did for the Vertigo spiral label, although he was contracted by other labels as well, such as Neon, and Nepentha; and some of the albums were released in America under the Mercury label.
The story of Marcus Keef begins with Phonogram record company (owned by Philips) creating the Vertigo record label which was meant to be used for smaller, underground rock and experimental bands. The first album released by Vertigo was by Colosseum, titled “Valentyne Suite” (1969), with cover photo by Marcus Keef. One of his most iconic photos would be used for the self titled debut album by “Black Sabbath”, released Friday 13th February 1970. The album sold out without any advertisement, much thanks to the brilliant album cover art by Keef showing a dark looming ghostlike figure on the cover.
Apart from shooting the first three Black Sabbath album covers he is also responsible for the cover photos on albums by Rod Stewart, Al Stewart, Colosseum, Manfred Mann, David Bowie, Gracious!, Nucleus, Affinity, etc.
The album art by Marcus Keef often spanned both the front and back side of the album, as well as the inside of the gatefold jackets. He often used false color photography such as infra red color film (presumably Kodak Aerochrome) to get an alien landscape, and with a degree in graphics design he was usually in charge of designing the entire layout of the album art.
The last album cover photo by Marcus Keef dates from 1976, after which he went into video editing, working with artists like Paul McCartney, Blondie, Pat Benatar, The Who, and Missing Persons to name a few. From 1983 information about him is scarce — he has even escaped the attention of wikipedia. Of the information I managed to dig up, I found that his real name was Keith MacMillan, but he used the pseudonym for his work as photographer, possibly to avoid confusion with another famous photographer with the same name.
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