Storm Thorgerson,  my creative partner at Hipgnosis from 1967 to 1982 died in April 2013, too young, at the age of sixty nine.

The global outpouring by the media in respect and recognition of Storm’s achievements has been impressive, and deservedly so.

At first glance, Storm’s pictures appeared as one-dimensional, but look again and the interpretation became quite different. His was a world of humour, illusions, visual puns, conundrums, and strange narratives, often set in a surreal landscape, and occupied by people and objects carefully composed in seemingly impossible situations. 

He often remarked that he came across ideas in dreams. ‘Spooky’, as Storm would have said.

Scale and realism were everything to Storm. Observe a man by the sea pulling a twenty-foot-high ball of string, or an underwater ballet shot in a corporation swimming pool. Five hundred beds spread across a beach, or two elegant ladies wearing cerise onions for ball gowns. Everything had to be built and photographed in situ and to a size determined by the idea. No fakery, no Photoshop, or no deal. And this is a sentiment some of you will know well,  budget permitting of course ! Something which Storm rarely understood.  

There again, money was never his prime motivation, and rather alarmingly, he often threw his fee to the wind just to get the job done, and he expected of others the same dedication under fire. And there was plenty of flak around I can assure you. Storm by name and Storm by nature. 

Our early days at Hipgnosis were far from plain sailing and he could be very tricky. I remember a meeting with Jimmy Page where Storm slipped an idea passed me and presented a photo of a white tennis racquet on green grass.

“ What’s that ? ” Jimmy asked.

“A racket”  replied Storm.

“Are you inferring Led Zeppelin make a racket?”

Needless to say, we were hastily shown the door and lost the job.

Or the time we arrived in the Southern Sahara with 60 deflated red footballs. Storm had taken on the responsibility to inflate them himself. He had brought a single, black bicycle pump. Luckily we found a backstreet garage and a dozen young Moroccan’s only to eager to earn some baksheesh.

One day I went to a presentation with Robert Plant who took a fancy to one of the ideas. He turned over the cardboard rough and on the back were the names of Genesis, Wishbone Ash, Bad Company, Asia, Todd Rundgren, and Yes all crossed out in black ink. Storm had already tried to sell the idea several times over. I think we got called ‘a right couple of chancers’.

At the start of Hipgnosis he was my mentor, showing me the many skills of photography and, most importantly, how to use a camera. We were both young and inexperienced but it seemed effortless for Storm to conjure up an endless stream of ideas, plundering his subconscious, no matter what the project.  And so we divided our labour – me taking most of the photographs and him doing most of the thinking. The relationship worked well. Whereas I had a vision to build a company, he had the intelligence to create an art house – and that’s exactly what Hipgnosis became.

His slogan was  ‘a good idea is a good idea’. In other words, a good image will sell anything on it’s own merit. It’s been tried and tested on many a musician. Some hated it, whilst others played along, enjoying the mind games and the banter. Most clients became attached to Storm and the proof of the pudding was his association working for Pink Floyd which lasted some forty-odd years.

Storm; always late, nearly always forgiven; full of quips, some not always appreciated; far too clever for his own good, but with a crazily gifted mind; revered by many, upsetting a few; rarely compromising, always fighting to the end and wearing obstruction down in the belief of his own work.

So is it any wonder that rock managers, corporate lawyers, gallery owners, fine art dealers, printers, publishers and record companies crossed him at their peril? Resolute, resilient, and very demanding, and with an energy beyond Olympian standards, his life was a testament given over to the creative workplace.  The work shy needed never apply, nor those of a nervous disposition, because, in the end, fulfilled dreams were made of this.

Storm was my friend and brother-in-arms and without him my career would have not been so exciting, creative, inventive or so successful, and I owe him a lot. Fly like an eagle, old buddy.

Aubrey Powell

May 2013