Graphic designers and art directors have been featuring exceptional photographs as book jacket illustrations for many years. In 2005 The University of Otago in New Zealand offered an exhibition entitled “Straight Jackets The Art of the Book Jacket” which is a wonderful historical overviewer and is viewable online here. Swanstock, the agency I founded in 1991 was at the leading edge of featuring contemporary photographs as illustration, offering a resource for creatives to source great material to license as cover art. The talented designers at the Knopf and Vintage divisions of Random House were among our first steady clients in this market, producing award-winning designs incorporating the photographs of fine art photographers as the central elements of their project. Needless to say, that trend has continued; I venture to guess that every reader has admired the imagery featured on contemporary books, and even wondered how to place their own work on jackets. Indeed, I hope some of you have seen (or perhaps even entered) the annual competition sponsored by AIGA entitled “50 Books/50 Covers.” Don’t miss seeing the archives of this great series of exhibitions on the link just mentioned.
And, I hope you are aware of a very interesting and ambitious web-based archive founded and organized by Karl Baden entitled “Covering Photography” which is a terrific resource for the study of the relationship between the history of photography and book cover design. The site contains a listing by photographer noting books featuring their images, who the publisher, author and designer were on the project. Read Baden’s overview on the project here. Today the fifth “Cover of the Month” has been announced, with an email to those who sign up on the mailing list; all are on the website www.coveringphotography.com.
Baden has created a valuable resource that I encourage you to visit often, appreciate, share. I for one hope the archive will grow and grow for all to enjoy.