When I created the album art for A City is a Sound, I wanted to do the same thing visually that I was trying to do musically in the tracks: evoke the spirit of the great American cities of the 1970s, but with an updated aesthetic. That meant using images from the era, but giving them a slightly more modern look.
There was another reason I wasn’t going to use pristine images from the 1970s.
My source for images was the Documerica project, a program sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency. About seventy photographers, some of whom went on to great fame, were instructed to “photographically document subjects of environmental concern” from about 1972 to 1977. They interpreted that mandate very broadly, taking pictures of a wide range of things, from small towns, to natural beauty, to my particular favorite: big cities.
Many of the Documerica images are more than mere documents–they’re great art. But the color in a lot of the photographs isn’t up to par, possibly because the images have degraded over time. The ones I picked were gorgeous, but I wasn’t going to use them as they were.
So I tried to restore their original vitality–or at least, what I imagined their original vitality might have been like.
In some cases, after trying to make the image more vivid, I went further, adding new elements to help integrate it into my own project. I did this, for instance, with the image of a young girl standing in front of an abandoned building, below.
Here’s an image by Wil Blanche where, again, I went beyond mere restoration.
Note: All of the Documerica images I used are in the public domain.