How the Cover Photo of the New Black Sabbath Album was Photographed

The English hard rock band Black Sabbath is back in the public consciousness with the release of their long-awaited album, “13”. Ozzy Osbourne, the band’s hard-living front man turned suburban reality show star, has shorn his pastel coloured clothes and reunited with the band for this release, along with drummer Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine. Set to their only yet released single, “God is Dead?”, this video shows the creation of the album’s cover art:

A fairly simple concept, the cover shows a number 13, crafted from straw, blazing in the darkness of a winter field. It was created by a team of British artists; designed and directed by Zip Design Studio, crafted by sculptor Spencer Jenkins, and photographed by Jonathan Knowles.

On a frigid English day, the woven straw digits were propped up on tripods in the middle of a field near Buckinghamshire, with brown grass and bare-branched trees populating the background. There was quite a setup, including two cameras – a DSLR and a medium format digital Hasselblad – hooked into a MacBook to allow tethered shooting. The numbers were perfectly framed between the trees behind them and, once the sky began to get dark, they were doused with flammable chemicals and lit afire piece by piece. They were then photographed, burning, against the night.

album art photography
There are a few portable strobes shown in the video, though it’s hard to tell if and where they were used in the final photograph; it’s likely that they were shone on the front and sides of the sculptures in order to create separation from the background. England in the wintertime isn’t the most flammable place, but note that they had fire extinguishers on the ready in case of emergency. Fire is a wonderful thing to photograph, but if not cared for properly, it can turn destructive and even deadly – a theme which, I imagine, drove the very concept of this album’s cover.

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