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The Making of the Hejira Cover   Print

by Angela LaGreca
Rock Photo
June 1985

She found the word by accident, while thumbing through a dictionary. "I was looking for a word to describe running away from something honorably," says Joni, "'Hejira' comes from when Mohammed had to leave Mecca - it means leaving the dream, no blame." After a series of photo sessions, she pieced together some 14 pictures to design the cover and sleeves of an album whose songs were all inspired by a travel theme.

The original quest to capture the classic Hans Brinker pose on film was realized in Madison, Wisconsin, where she and Joel Bernstein were staying, after "forces united to disrupt a tour." Overnight the nearby lake fogged and froze over. When Joni awoke, she donned a pair of black men's skates, a long black skirt and a fur cape, took a limo to the lake's edge and managed to conquer bitter winds and an already thawing, spongy ice while Joel took the pics. To their surprise, they got the shot they were after, but felt that the "unruly" pose of Joni "with the attitude of a crow" was more interesting. Still, it didn't convey enough the album's themes of "melancholy and movement" and "romantic winter."

Joni had an idea: contact figure skater Toller Cranston, a bronze medalist whose dramatic, expressive style intrigued her, rent out a hockey arena and paint a highway down the middle of it, mist out the bleachers with sprayers, bring in a woman dressed up as a bride, and have Toller and the bride do a series of romantic vignettes while Joni skated down the 'highway,' "kind of gawky" on her Hejira followed by a limo driver weighed down with her "excess baggage." The photos, though an interesting series, still didn't summarize her vision of the album.

It was back to Norman Seeff (who often photographs her) for a portrait of Joni looking "haunted, like a (Ingmar) Bergman figure." And then the ideas started coming together. She used an instrument called a Camera Lucida (Lucy) to enlarge or reduce the 14 photos from the different series to various sizes within one image area, and then shot one big negative with all the resized photos in place. An airbrusher corrected all the light sources and smoothes over the edges.

"If I had done the cover as a collage, it would've looked much more primitive," she says, "this way it's so polished, as if it's exactly one photograph."

 

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