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Behind the Cover: Freetown Sound by Blood Orange

When Deana Lawson took this portrait, titled “Binky & Tony Forever,” she had no idea that it would become the cover of one of Dev Hynes’s most prolific albums. Lawson specializes in photography depicting identity, love and materiality, particularly in Black culture. Her work is beautiful and honest, showing levels of intimacy that are both soft and powerful.

In 2016, the year “Freetown Sound” was released, “Fader” magazine interviewed Lawson on the album cover’s creation. She described how “Binky & Tony Forever” was originally a personal project, and it would be seven years before Dev Hynes used it for his album artwork. Binky, the woman in the photo, was a makeup artist she met on a shoot. Anthony, the man, was a friend of Binky’s. Lawson went in knowing she wanted to capture the idea of “physical intimacy” with a young couple. Usually, she shoots her subjects in their own environments, but for this particular photo shoot, they were actually in Lawson’s bedroom. She chose to keep everything on the walls the same except the Michael Jackson poster, which she says invoked her “own memory of popular culture while [she] was growing up.”

Lawson chose them as subjects partially because of their heights. Though Binky was quite short and Anthony quite tall, their positions demonstrate a deep level of respect and closeness. The way he’s embracing her gives off the sense that they are equals, and there’s no toxic power dynamic in their relationship.

The striking tenderness of this visual is perhaps what drew Dev Hynes to the photograph. After seeing “Binky & Tony Forever”, he asked if he could use it for the cover to “Freetown Sound.” Though Lawson was hesitant to release one of her pieces into such heavy circulation, she came around after hearing Dev Hynes’ unreleased album. She felt “like his mission, his intention, and his aesthetic” fit hers perfectly.

– DJ Butter

Interview source can be found here.