For music photographer Neil Krug, growing up in Kansas helped grow his imagination. “This was pre-cellphone, mostly pre-internet,” he recalls. “I wanted to create the world I grew up watching in movies and on TV.” After an early photo essay went viral on Flickr (“the original Instagram,” he says), in 2010 he published Pulp Art Book, a fashionable hardcover featuring vintage-looking Polaroid photographs of his then-girlfriend, model Joni Harbeck. “The very first people to jump on that were bands in Los Angeles,” says Krug, who moved to the city within a year.
Now 36, he’s one of the music industry’s most sought-after art directors, known for creating psychedelic, cinematic album covers for concept-forward artists like Tame Impala and Lana Del Rey while drawing on everything from expressionist art to anime. One cover can take two years, he says — “and we all know artists are pretty particular.” But with the challenge comes the chance to create a piece of history. “I get to tackle big questions, like: ‘How do we want people to remember this album?’ ‘What image can we create that tells this story?’ The trick, as always, is dodging the obvious answers.”