Astral Piper Interview with VIC SINGH - APRIL 2005
(above) Vic Singh, today
Well, as most of you already know, Vic Singh is the Photographer who shot the now famous front cover sleeve photograph for Pink Floyd's debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.
Before setting up his own business, Vic worked for a Photographic studio called Studio 5 alongside two other well known Photographic Masters, David Bailey and Norman Eales. Based in London, Vic has been working as a highly successful Commercial Photographer ever since that Piper shoot back in 1967. Astral Piper decided to Interview Vic, to find out a little more about that glorious photo session.
ASTRAL PIPER - Hello Vic, please tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up? How did you get into photography?
Vic - I was born in Lucknow, India. Father son of a raja and mother daughter of a Austrian society photographer from Vienna. Sent to boarding school in England at the age of 6. Lived in London with my mum. At the age of 16 got a job as a photographic assistant. A few years later opened my own studio in London's Mayfair.
(above) Vic in the late 60's, around the time of the shoot.
ASTRAL PIPER - How did the whole Piper Sleeve shoot come about?
Vic - I mixed with a wide circle of people in fashion and music industries in London's swinging 60's scene. First meeting the band at a gathering in the West-End of London. They got in touch soon after and wanted a photo for their first album.
ASTRAL PIPER - Where did the Photographic session take place?
Vic - In my photo studio.
ASTRAL PIPER - Did you get to see Pink Floyd recording Piper in the studio before the shoot?
Vic - No but listened to the recording before the shoot.
ASTRAL PIPER - Did you ever see the band live? Either before or after you photographed them?
Vic - No.
ASTRAL PIPER - How was the "effect" achieved for the photograph?
Vic - By using a prism lens which splits and multiplies the image.
(above) A close-up of the Inspirational Prism lens!
ASTRAL PIPER - Did you have any other creative ideas for the shoot?
Vic - Yes for the band to get groovy 60's clothes with bright psychedelic colors.
ASTRAL PIPER - What sort of camera and lighting was used?
Vic - Camera was a Hasselblad and Cecil Strobe lighting (studio flash).
ASTRAL PIPER - What are your memories of Syd Barrett on the day of the shoot?
Vic - I have no specific memory of Syd, because it was a trip with the whole band.
ASTRAL PIPER - Did Syd have any strange, creative suggestions for you on the day?
Vic - Syd and the band were excited at the prospect of being photographed with the prism lens. After seeing a few test polaroid photos they relaxed and got into posing with the Piper music playing at full blast. Syd probably got inspired and saw the potential in visual creative imagery as a vehicle to enhance the musical experience.
ASTRAL PIPER - In your opinion, did the band seem to get along well as a group?
Vic - Sure.
ASTRAL PIPER - Did you take any individual shots of Syd, or the other members of Pink Floyd for your session?
Vic - No.
ASTRAL PIPER - The rear sleeve's "silhouette style" design is credited to Syd Barrett. It appears that it was derived from a posed photo taken at a park in London. That photo shows the other band members standing behind Syd with arms outstretched. Did you shoot this photograph? And, did you and Syd discuss this image to be included as part of the album's Art Direction?
Vic - No to both questions.
ASTRAL PIPER - With several re-issues of the album occurring in the past 2 decades, have you ever been approached for "alternative" rare shots from your shoot, to contribute to new artwork?
Vic - No.
ASTRAL PIPER - Were you involved with the band further, following the now famous album sleeve?
Vic - No.
ASTRAL PIPER - So, what did you personally think of the Piper album and itís music style back then?
Vic - The Pink Floyd were a new group and their music was abstract and innovative. Almost alien from the mainstream popular music of that time i.e. The Beatles, Stones, Elvis, Dylan, Beach Boys and the rest. I wondered if they would survive with their original style of music.
ASTRAL PIPER - And so what are your feelings toward the album today?
Vic - The Piper is an icon that says do what you believe in, however impossible or even ridiculous it may seem. If the inspirational content is true, it will finally overcome all barriers. The impossible dream becomes the reality.
ASTRAL PIPER - Given current technology, with great programs like Photoshop etc, allowing the almost impossible, how would you shoot a cover for Piper at the Gates of Dawn today?
Vic - The prism lens used for the Piper photo had a quality of its own. Using Photoshop today the image would be different from the original so how could one retake the classic photo shot in 1967 with all the band members present. Possibly with the invention of the time machine. I could travel back to groovy London and my studio in 1967, clutching a laptop installed with Photoshop and a digital camera under my arm. Sit down with Syd and the boys in my studio have some refreshments and see what we could rustle up for the Piper album cover.
Astral Piper would like to sincerely thank Vic for his valuable time in giving this rare interview and a new insight into his piece of creativity, and contribution to the first Pink Floyd album. I would also like to personally thank Vic for kindly supplying additional images for my site. Vic also kindly agreed to donate a LARGE (12x18inch) "Signed" Print of the famous Piper photograph printed on High Quality Photographic Paper to WIN as a prize on this website in July of this year. Vic now has a brand new Website showcasing some of his amazing images achieved throughout the years on various assignments, including the Piper photograph. Vic has a limited run of these prints in varying sizes available For Sale on his website. Please click on the link below to see more details of the Print and to explore Vic's website.