These days “you don’t have the canvas to show your work,” said Neal Preston, a photographer who worked for Atlantic in the 1970s and whose own images of Led Zeppelin and others from that era have been uncovered in the archive project. “There is a deep connection for a lot of us in terms of what an album cover means to us emotionally,” he said. “It goes hand in hand with the music. At least it used to.”
Mr. Preston spent years on the road with bands, photographing fly-on-the-wall moments at the behest of Atlantic Records.
Neal Preston quit the band* (my dad** replaced him, c. 1970) to go take photos, which the other guys made fun of him for. Nobody was laughing when he went on tour with Led Zeppelin and landed a photo on the cover of Rolling Stone. Preston went on to have a career shooting, most notably in my mind, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and the Live Aid music festival. He published a photographic retrospective of life on tour with the Zep in 2004. My dad still has some photos Neal Preston made of the band in the early 70s, some a recreation of the Abbey Road cover.
(quote from Warner Music Dives into Its Archives, an interesting piece about how photographs were a large part of selling albums back in the day. The beautiful Robert Plant shot from 1969 from the print version of this story is unfortunately not available online, but then again it was not a Neal Preston.)
*I refer to them as a nameless band since they went through so many names and lineups, even after they spent that summer in Vermont (yes, that’s why my parents moved there, 10 years later) playing gigs and after they started recording in the studio.
**I should probably mention here that another member of the band went on to produce Joan Osborne (remember?) and Cyndi Lauper (she’s so nice! and tiny), as well as playing in Cyndi’s band. My dad is an optometrist (and records music in his home studio. He hasn’t played a live gig in probably 15 years).