Some of you may remember photographer and record-collector Alex Bartsch's project in which he photographed classic reggae LP covers in their original locations. He started a Kickstarter campaign just under two years ago in the hope of publishing the project into a book – and finally it has been, and the collection is being showcased across the UK over the next few months.
Alex spent two years researching the London locations of 42 reggae covers between 1967 and 1987, and rephotographed them in their original locations, as you can see here.
Image: John Holt, 2000 Volts of Holt (Trojan Records, 1976), rephotographed in Holland Park, London, 39 years later.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, his collection of photographs has finally been published into a book with the help of One Love Books, titled Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London. To mark the launch of the book, exhibitions of the photographs have been planned at various locations across the UK, including London and Paris’ Exposure Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Limited edition prints will be available soon.
The exhibition can currently be seen at London Exposure Gallery until June 20, before it moves to Paris Exposure (12–24 July), Nottingham New Art Exchange (28 July–2 September), Nottingham Rough Trade (28 July–2 September) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (8 September–14 October). To keep up with exhibition details follow Alex on Twitter.
Image: Moodie, Early Years (Moody Music, 1974), rephotographed on Downhills Park Road, London, 41 years later.
"I was blown away by the concept, but also by what the photographs represented: the largely overlooked yet immensely rich history of reggae music in the UK," says One Love Books' Al Newman.
"Whenever a new cover was located it was photographed and marked on a map, the layout of which is fascinating in its own right, revealing concentrations of covers in specific areas – many in central London around landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus, and an equally dense cluster in the NW10 postcode."
Image: Various Artists, Harder Shade of Black (Santic, 1974), rephotographed in Hackney Downs, 42 years later.
Alex began working on the project in 2014 after purchasing the Brixton Cat LP by Joe 'The Boss' Mansano.
Living in Brixton himself, he took the record down to the market where the photo was shot and rephotographed it at arms length in the exact location, at the corner of Atlantic Road and Electric Avenue in the heart of Brixton Market. Mansano ran a record shop in the market at 93 Granville Arcade, and his sister-in-law Peggy Jackson was in the picture. After a couple of attempts Alex came up with the idea of holding the record sleeve at arm’s length.
Image: Smiley Culture, Cockney Translation (Fashion Records, 1984), rephotographed on Plough Road, London, 32 years later.
The second cover was Smiley Culture’s Cockney Translation 12-inch, which was photographed in Battersea. From then on, he was hooked.
Finding the exact shots led Alex (on his bike) on a wild goose chase across the city – from Penge in the southeast to Harlesden in the northwest – and into some interesting situations, like asking to enter someone’s front room in Hampstead, and accessing a backyard in Wembley.
Image: Al Campbell, Rainy Days (Hawkeye, 1978), rephotographed in King Edward VII Park, London, 38 years later.
He says the project painted an interesting map of London’s reggae music heritage.
To publish the book of his photographs, Alex has teamed up with One Love Books. They’ve also published reggae-centred books Clarks in Jamaica, Sound System Culture, and In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious.
Image: Pat Kelly, Pat Kelly Sings (Pama, 1969), rephotographed at the Albert Memorial, London, 46 years later.
Image: Carroll Thompson, Hopelessly in Love (Carib Gems, 1981), rephotographed on Milton Avenue, London, 34 years later.