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Monday, December 4, 2023

The influence of photographer Neil Krug on Lana Del Rey’s music

After years of struggling to establish herself as a star, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant decided to try out a new name, Lana Del Rey. Although she failed to achieve mainstream success under the names May Jailer and Lizzy Grant, the singer finally found acclaim with her new pseudonym, which is now one of the most iconic names in modern music.

With the release of her major label debut single ‘Video Games’, Del Rey instantly carved herself out as different to her contemporaries. The baroque ballad was a striking change from most of the music in the charts, and her homemade music video, which featured grainy webcam clips of the singer, was like nothing anyone had seen on MTV before.

Her debut album, Born to Die, was released in 2012 to instant acclaim, finding a wide audience online, with Del Rey finding popularity on image-based social media platforms like Tumblr. This was due to her preoccupation with crafting a rich visual world alongside her music. Lyrically, she used evocative language to paint a vivid world defined by excess, tragic glamour, trashy Americana aesthetics and symbols, such as Coca-Cola and heart-shaped sunglasses.

Since Born to Die, Del Rey has steadily released seven more studio albums, several EPs, and even a poetry record. Each one is defined by a unique aesthetic, although Del Rey’s dedication to style never overrides substance. For Ultraviolence, she went for a vintage-inspired black-and-white style, whereas the imagery that defined Honeymoon was much more dreamy, drawing on a late summer atmosphere.

However, many of these visuals are made in collaboration with one of Del Rey’s favourite photographers, Neil Krug. When Del Rey isn’t working with her sister, photographer Chuck Grant, she is most likely being shot by Krug. The pair began working together in 2014, with Krug taking the photos that defined Ultraviolence. Since then, he has photographed her for every record apart from Norman Fucking Rockwell!, providing the final cover art for several of her albums. Additionally, he is responsible for many iconic press shots of Del Rey, which have been used internationally.

The majority of the most well-known images of Del Rey have been photographed by Krug, who seems to share similar creative visions to the singer. He is able to perfectly emulate the sound of each album through his photos, and Del Rey has even claimed that his work has shaped the trajectory of some of her music.

Talking to Clash Magazine, Del Rey explained: “A friend gave this [Pulp Art Book; one of Krug’s photobooks] to me as a present, but for some reason, they thought the photographer was dead.” She added, “I was so heavily influenced by it, always thinking he was dead.” 

However, Del Rey soon got into contact with Krug when she discovered that he was, in fact, alive. Since then, he has been an intrinsic part of Del Rey’s creative process. “For some reason, he has been really life-changing for me. He loves painting Polaroids and making little 8x10s. I saw one of the shots he took of me, and I felt it had to be the album cover. That photo influenced me to change the track listing.”

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