SXSW 2011 Review: TAKEN BY STORM: THE ART OF STORM THORGERSON AND HIPGNOSIS

Gwen Reyes

by: Gwen Reyes
March 22nd, 2011

Rating: 3/5

Writer: Roddy Bogawa
Director: Roddy Bogawa
Cast: Storm Thorgerson

The images created by influential photographer Storm Thorgerson have been a part of our pop culture landscape for over four decades. His meticulous eye has brought to life some of the most iconic album covers, most of which leave the lasting impression of greatness. He has a particular view of the world, an almost obsessive work ethic, and a gruff nature that tends to attract and alienate those closest to him. He may be polarizing, but his art never is.

Too much artist to be contained by the numerous books chronicling his work, Thorgerson is now the subject of Roddy Bogawa’s newest documentary, TAKEN BY STORM: THE ART OF STORM THORGERSON AND HIPGNOSIS. The film explores Thorgerson’s nearly half-century long career, the ups and downs in his professional and personal relationships, and how in this day of dwindling album sales he continues to be the go-to name in record packaging. He’s also hella hilarious, for a batty old guy.

The film begins with Thorgerson working on a new photo. He pushes the female model and the set designers to make the image just perfect. He has a very set idea of what the final product needs to look like, and he expects those around to him to understand his ultimate goal just as clearly as he does. By the end of the film, his production assistants make what’s inside his mind come to life, and while a stressful moment on set, the end result is beautiful and establishes the tone for the rest of the film - calmly chaotic. He never once raises his voice or exudes an air of artistic superiority. He just demands respect and receive it thusly. And the film captures his nature perfectly.

Thorgerson is an inherently dry person. He is an artist with a funny bone, quick wit, and just enough grumpy temper to be considered a cute old man. Although Bogawa provides footage of his subject from his youth, we spend so much time with him as a senior that the younger images of an ambitious, power hungry man are almost a fantasy. He isn’t that anymore and the film’s two different personalities are quite jolting. The man in the modern scenes isn’t ambitious as much as he is repetitious of his previous career successes, and he almost seems burdened by his own clout. It’s a shame really, as the film exposes his own individual insecurities while highlighting his heightened demand within the industry. The art he makes now is more masterful than his early work, including his iconic Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album cover.

TAKEN BY STORM is a fine enough documentary, but without direct access to Thorgerson and his work, the film would have fallen completely flat. Thankfully, Bogawa was capable of pulling out such an intimate look at the legend.

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