Album Art




This is the album cover for the Beatle’s 1969 album Abbey Road. This photo was done with high key lighting. The sun is shinning down from the top left, lighting up the group members and the road. It is obvious that there is not another light source because there are highly defined cast shadows and dense attached shadows everywhere. There is a lot of form and texture to be seen in this photo because of the attached shadows in their clothing and in the road itself.  

The composition and framing of this photo are very interesting. The white lines going down the center of the road create a graphic vector that lead your eye through the photo and into the background or horizon line. The direction the group members are facing and walking also create a vector that points to the right. Their position suggests movement but there was no lead room given in the framing. This makes the right side of the photo appear to be cut off too abruptly. It almost looks like John Lennon is going to run into something or have to stop walking. Their walking legs are in unison and also create two diagonal vectors that point to the bottom corners of the photo. This is a long shot where the framing allows for a lot of head room. This emphasizes the scenery and applies less direction to the band members. I think this was done on purpose to draw attention to “Abbey Road”. It also makes it seem like we are looking down on the Beatles and that they are weighed down by the top half of the photo. It is not necessarily what you would expect to see in a popular band’s album cover because they are looking away from the camera, they are far away, and they are only a small part of their surroundings. It is hard to feel any kind of connection with these band members. This brings us to the question of why? This composition and framing was obviously chosen purposefully so what meaning were they hoping to imply?

If you have heard anything about the meaning found in most Beatle’s albums after 1967 you would know that they are supposedly full of signs, mostly symbolic ones. There was a very drawn out of proportion rumor spread nationwide in 1967 that Paul McCartney was killed in a terrible car accident and secretly replaced by a look-alike, William Campbell. The album covers are filled with symbolic signs of Paul’s death that are still being talked about today. This album cover in particular contains several signs that are only noticed by people who know the debate about Paul’s death – that is why they are symbolic. The most obvious is how all of the members are with their left foot forward except Paul, he is the only one out of sync. Paul is the only one who is bare foot which is  a synecdoche that leads people to believe that he did in fact die because people are buried without shoes on in Europe. The clothing of all of the Beatle’s creates a syntagmatic relation because together, they represent deeper meaning. John Lennon is dressed in all white which represents a Christ-like figure or a minister. Next, Ringo is dressed in all black meaning he is the undertaker. Then, Paul who is dressed in an outdated suit with bare feet suggests he is a corpse. Last is George, wearing all denim suggesting that he is the grave digger. The license plate on the VW bug to the left says 28IF which is how old Paul would have been had he been alive. These are all displaced codes that were arguably intentional. It could also be argued that they are only there by coincidence but, these same type of symbolic signs are seen over and over again in other album covers, photographs, and song lyrics. Most people believe that the Beatle’s were just having fun leading people to believe the ridiculous rumor by adding these signs on purpose even though they have been known to deny it. These signs have developed a myth that is still highly debated today. 


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    adriennerhea said,

    I agree with you Shari, the lighting is done with high key with a lot of attatched shadows. The graphic vector is really strong, leading my eye to the horizon of the shot. I* don’t really know a lot about the symbolic signs in this album, but they are very interesting! The album would really apply if the listen is a big fan and knows the band’s history. I think the clothing choices are very interesting as well. Good job Shari!

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