Storm Thorgerson remembered by Aubrey Powell: 'He conjured up an endless stream of ideas, plundering and pillaging his subconscious'

Aubrey Powell writes: Storm's pictures created a world of illusions, visual puns, conundrums and strange narratives, often set in a surreal landscape occupied by people and objects in seemingly impossible situations.

Storm Thorgerson's pictures created a world of illusions, visual puns, conundrums and strange narratives, often set in a surreal landscape occupied by people and objects carefully composed in seemingly impossible situations.

Impossible? Not so, as scale and realism were everything to Storm. Observe a man by the sea pulling a 20ft-high ball of string, or a giant eye peering ominously over a naked shoulder in some parched badland. Thirty telegraph poles in a straight line with a person sitting cross-legged on the top of each one, hundreds of hospital beds spread across a beach, or red footballs in the dunes of the Sahara desert. An underwater ballet, performed in a corporation swimming pool, or two elegant ladies wearing cerise onions for ball gowns. For sheer enormity, try two huge stone statues the size of Easter Island figures facing each other, yet divided in the distance by Ely Cathedral. Storm's ideas were extraordinary, but the execution even more so. He insisted on creating real sculptures for each of his projects. Everything had to be built and photographed in situ to a size determined by the idea. No fakery, no Photoshop, or no deal.

In the beginning at Hipgnosis, he was my mentor, showing me the many skills of photographic design, such as perspective, composition, collage and montage, darkroom techniques and, most importantly, how to use a camera. Even though we were both young and inexperienced, it seemed effortless for him to conjure up an endless stream of ideas, plundering and pillaging his subconscious. Whereas I had a vision to build a company, he had the intelligence to create an art house.

When we parted company and Hipgnosis quietly ceased operations, Storm continued on at what he liked to do best – playing the creator of images – and so a new outfit appeared with a fresh bunch of loyal and willing hands running different aspects of Storm Studios. A team of artisans helped him discover new and wonderful horizons. Storm's output never ceased to amaze.

Things were never made easy for Storm's clients. He was a lateral and fearless thinker for whom the presentation of ideas was like a game of intellectual charades, with a few clues as to the meaning of the work thrown in every now and again. More often than not, the images he produced were unrelated to the original brief, and so it became a marathon task to interpret what came out of Storm's head. His slogan was "a good idea is a good idea". In other words, a good image will sell anything on its own merit. It was tried and tested on many a rock star. Some hated it, Paul McCartney for one. Others played along, like Peter Gabriel, who enjoyed the mind games and the banter. For the most part, having been put to the test and lived to enjoy the resulting artwork, clients remained steadfastly attached to Storm.

Always late, nearly always forgiven; full of quips, some not always appreciated; far too clever for his own good, but with a crazily gifted mind; rarely compromising, always fighting to the end, and wearing obstruction down in the belief of his own work, Storm rarely lost his way. The boy done good.

Aubrey Powell

The GuardianTramp

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