In a new interview in promotion of his ongoing exhibition world tour, Storm Thorgerson revealed for the first time that a Navajo guard demanded to confiscate all of the film containing Bury the Hatchet’s cover art during the photo shoot — only to find out that it was a joke.
Thorgerson admitted to Fmagazine that he and his crew were trespassing on Native American reservation grounds in Monument Valley, Utah, to photograph the cover for Bury the Hatchet.
“So what did I have here in Monument Valley? I had an eye and a naked man. We were filming in what are the sacred lands of the Navajo Indians and out of nowhere in this big, wide-open space, a Navajo appears in a truck. He jumps out of the truck, a big huge guy, broad rather than tall, with incredibly jet-black hair and he walks over. We’re all going, ‘Oh my God, what is this, what’s happening?’ He comes over, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, ‘I confiscate all your film and your props.’”
“He just appeared out of nowhere and he was built like a brick house. He had no neck at all, it just went from his head to his huge body,” he recalled.
Thorgerson, who said he’s never had his equipment confiscated, said, “For one moment, I was utterly terrified.”
“Then he burst out laughing and we start swapping e-mail addresses. We couldn’t believe it! It was absolutely hysterical.”
“You always worry as a photographer if they’ll take away your camera and confiscate your film. Then you’ll come back empty handed. Coming back empty handed is a very difficult to say to the client. If you say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have the shot,’ then it doesn’t sound very good. Most clients are very unimpressed. It’s easy to fail. It’s easy not to do it. So to not come back with a picture is like a cardinal sin. You always have to come back with something. If the stuff has been taken by police — or in this case, a Navajo — what are you going to say? Will the band ever believe you anyway? So when you get home, and you tell the band, they go, “Oh yeah right! Pull the other one! Are you fucking kidding? You must be mad! I’m not going to believe that!”
Thorgerson also got the chance to talk about the making of the Wake Up and Smell the Coffee cover: “We built a tower and put 100 gym balls on top of the tower. It has a tilting ramp. We’d bounce them off the tower and onto the beach. It was fantastic, absolutely fantastic, just the way I had imagined it. They all bounced like crazy.”
You can listen to them both at Fmagazine (Oct. issue) or download the audio clips for Bury the Hatchet and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee here.
Thorgerson’s US exhibition tour kicks off in Chicago on May 12.