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Behind the Cover of Our 2017 Music Issue

New York photographer Darin Mickey provided us with a bit of existentialism.

This story appears in VICE magazine and Noisey's 2017 Music Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine.

Darin Mickey, a New York–based photographer, is the author of Death Takes a Holiday and Stuff I Gotta Remember Not to Forget, both published by J&L Books. His photos have appeared in numerous publications, including Aperture, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, and i-D. He has exhibited work in solo and group exhibitions across the globe, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Transformer Station house his art in their permanent collections. Mickey has been teaching at the International Center of Photography since 2001 and at Cooper Union since 2004.


VICE: What's the story behind our cover image?
Darin Mickey: I shot this image in the basement of R&B Records, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It's part of a larger series of images and Death Takes a Holiday, which focuses on a handful of older record shops in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

How many record stores did you document in Death Takes a Holiday?
I photographed at 11 different stores in all, and I included eight shops in the final edit of the book.

You capture these stores in such a genuine and nostalgic way. What drew you to the subject in the first place?
As a record collector myself, I have always loved the older, dirty, disorganized shops and the cast of obsessive eccentrics who often inhabit those spaces. The images come from a somewhat dual perspective—as an outside observer looking in and as a participant interested in the gems that could be hiding in a dusty pile of records. When I started taking these photos, in 2014, many of the older, independent shops were closing, and it was important for me to have a document of at least a few that were still holding on.

What's your favorite album cover?
Tough to limit it to just one. I love all of Swamp Dogg's album covers. I bought his record Total Destruction to Your Mind in a dollar bin years ago just because it had such a terrible and confusing picture on the cover, and the title was so good. I was blown away by how great the music was when I got home—incredible acid-influenced, countrified soul. His album Rat On! was on someone's list of worst album covers a while back, but I would argue that it is one of the best album covers ever.

Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
Usually from just walking around and observing the random beauty and chaos of the world. Books, music, and other photographers' work are also constant sources of inspiration and influence. Birney Imes's book Juke Joint was definitely on my mind when I was working on these record-shop pictures.

What projects are you working on now?
I have been photographing quite a bit in Japan for the past few years and will be making more trips there when time and money allows. I also enjoy just grabbing a camera and walking around New York with no particular goal in mind.

We liked all of Mickey's photos, but we chose the image of dusty records because we thought it was a nice nod to how technology has drastically changed the music industry over the years.