On Producing A Time Magazine Cover

While working as a neophyte naive trainee photographer for Robert Crandall’s studio in New York City in the mid ‘60s, Time Magazine approached Crandall to produce an image for the cover of an edition dedicated to the “mind blowing” drug phenomenon.

The obvious, to Crandall at least, was to assemble the various drug paraphernalia (needles, pipe, rolling paper, a bit of white powder and some marijuana (from an employee who shall go nameless) and create a “mind blowing” still life.

And so he did; he lit the set perfectly and rolled out his 8×10 camera. As he started to meter the set taking into into account light ratios, I couldn’t help opening my mouth, “Mr. Crandall, this image doesn’t really say ‘mind blowing.’ I have an idea.”

He turned and looked at this newby and said, “WHAT?”

I had recently been to an amusement park and played “spin-art,” where you squeezed different colours of paint from a ketchup squeeze bottle onto a piece of paper rotating on a high-speed turntable. As the paint hit the paper, it splattered into weird patterns due to centrifugal force. It occurred to me that a piece of spin-art sort of appeared like how blowing your mind might feel (mind you it was only guesswork, get my drift?)

Of course, Crandall didn’t have a clue about any such thing. So I ran back to my apartment and fetched my spin-art masterpiece.

When I showed Crandall the spin-art, I opened my trap again and suggested that if we superimposed some spin-art over over a profile of a person, it would symbolize a person’s mind being blown.

Instead of dismissing me on the spot and ruining my career as a photographer, he said, “good idea,” and sent sent me back to the amusement park with a $10 bill to produce a selection of mind blowing spin-art.

Crandall presented his and my idea for the cover to the art director at Time Magazine. Guess which one he picked? It appears at he top of this page, the 1969 September 26 edition. It was accomplished in darkroom with double printing and soft-edge masking…hey, Photoshop wasn’t even an idea then.

The moral of the story? With anything creative, listen to your heart, not your intellect. Never feel stupid or self-conscious by letting your mind free-fall. There’s no guarantee your masterpiece(s) will be successful every time, but, by the law of averages, you will reach the keyhole of creativity. You might even be called artistic!

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  1. Hi, Robert scull Crandall is my great grandfather! I’m also a photographer ( well I will be going to college for it) and it’s amazing what my great grandfather did!

    1. He’s my great-grandfather too! My grandmother was his eldest daughter, I’m set to graduate with a degree in illustration next year and he inspired my father’s love of photography. I agree, he was an amazing man and although he died when i was very young he’s always been my biggest inspiration to make art

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