Recreating reggae: Photographer captures London’s streets through album covers

Hordes of tourists have walked the Abbey Road zebra crossing in an attempt to recreate the famous Beatles album cover, causing a great deal of frustration for London drivers.

It makes us feel like we’re placing ourselves into a moment of history: stepping into the shoes of our heroes and becoming part of a cultural phenomenon, which for many took place before they were even born.

London-based photographer Alex Bartsch has taken this even further with his project Covers, which saw him cycling around London recreating iconic shots of over 20 reggae record covers.

“The project first started when I bought The Brixton Cat LP on Trojan Records, which features a lady on the corner of Atlantic Toad and Electric Avenue in Brixton,” he said.

“I love that cover so I took it to the spot where it was photographed and held it up in front of the camera, placing it in the right position.

“Then I took my second cover, Smiley Culture’s Cockney Translation 12″ in Battersea.”

From this point, Bartsch was hooked.

He spent the next two years rifling through vinyl stores to find reggae albums before cycling to the locations they were photographed, position the cover perfectly before photographing them.

He began a Kickstarter campaign fund the work and its publication.

“To achieve some of these shots I had to hitch a boat ride across Regents Canal, climb onto a roof top near Old Street, ask to enter someone’s front room in Hampstead, access a back yard in Wembley and venture on to the Westway in west London,” he wrote on his Kickstarter page.

Mr Bartsch said the ‘detective work’ could often take a while depending on the cover, but riding around the capital was one of the highlights of the project.

“I love exploring the city,” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of street photography in the past so I love working in the street.

“This project has really taken me all over London: I spent a lot of time in Harlesden, which was predominant in the reggae scene so I learnt some interesting things and met a few good people along the way.”

He has not only has recreated shots, but also galvanised the public in supporting the project and its publication.

His Kickstarter campaign, which started in October, received half of the funding within three days.

But Mr Bartsch’s interest in a social method of funding has been around for some time.

“As the funding for the arts decreases all the time, it’s good to have a platform to enable artists to get their ideas and projects funded,” he said.

“It also minimises the risks by giving you an idea of how successful it may become based on pre-sales.

“Plus it’s a great buzz to see it all happening within a few weeks. It was hard work but great fun too.”

So, what’s next? His photography has taken him from Jamaica to Cuba and Bolivia, where he hit the streets to meet and photograph local people in black and white.

His priority is Covers, its publication and exhibitions around it, but a potential Jamaica edition of the book could be on the cards.

All we know is that whatever his next project holds, a love for the streets and their varied cultures will be at the core.

For now, select images will be exhibited in the UK and abroad while Mr Bartsch’s photographs will be published by One Love Books, set for release in late June 2017.

Related Articles