Bonding over our common love for skating, art, fashion and cool, weird shit, VICE and Vans partnered to launch Unbound—a series that enables emerging Canadian creatives to work on what they love.
Grace Jones breaking internet pre-internet; the lonesome faceless boo-boo’d portrait of Frank Ocean’s Blond; the birthday suit baby floating wee-wee first towards the ‘hell yeah’ of a free one dollar bill on Nirvana’s Nevermind; Choclair sitting on a goddamn throne of ice in track pants before going to ice bars was low-key attainable. There are album covers that are as iconic for the imagery as the songs contained within them, and even transcend the music to be the kind of cultural reference point that the uninitiated pleb sees and nods, “Oh, that one. Yeah, I know that one.”
It’s this kind of striking visual history that used to line the aisles of CD stores—and is now more commonly found on IG stories of friends sharing whatever song/suppressed emotion their currently listening to on Spotify—that forms the groundwork for photographer Jacqueline Ashton’s new series. It’s one that imagines album artwork for groups and artists that don’t—and may never—actually exist.
“I've always connected music with art” Ashton says of the inspiration for the project. “I've just been drawn to it. It's something that I want to do for an artist eventually.”
Rather than waiting for an artist to come to her, Ashton created her own distinctive set of genre covers by casting friends to fill the roles of invented R&B icons, reggae legends, and Pitchfork darlings. The resulting pieces range from love-drunk portraiture to hazy chillwave to 90s resurrectionists, all while maintaining an individual sense of visual identity amongst the genres, subjects, and landscapes.
“I think it's more important now than before,” Ashton remarks on visuals in music. ”An artist has more say in their creative direction and presentation because there's more independent artists. For example, Daniel Caesar: that's all him and his friends that are now his creative team and you can see that. It’s genuine and it’s not someone pushing this style on him.”
Working from moodboards for each of the albums and building them around her subjects personal style, the photographer also collaborated with her models to name some of the invented groups, even going as far to give them tracklists and backstories to channel.
“For the R&B group, all the girls are from Michigan, and I asked what they have in common from Michigan and they said Faygo, so I was like you should be the Faygo girls. I imagined it as their first album when they first got together.”
While we may never get to see a bunch of confused Insane Clown Posse fans at a Faygo concert, or have the experience of demanding their track “Pour It Up For Me” when we’re out of our minds at a wedding, simply seeing an image of their “album cover” makes those fantasies seem at least vaguely plausible. See the rest of Jacqueline’s series below, and hire her for your next album cover—real or imagined—here.