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Five months ago was the 50th anniversary of the 1970 debut self-titled album from Black Sabbath. The iconic record bore an equally iconic cover-art, which would go onto inspire the tropes of metal imagery for decades to come.
50 years on, photographer Keith “Keef” Macmillan goes behind the scenes of the iconic first Black Sabbath album cover, revealing the identity of the mysterious woman.
The woman featured on the cover of Black Sabbath is Louisa Livingstone. Livingstone was about 18 at the time and working as a model.
“She was a fantastic model,” Macmillan describes. “She was quite petite, very, very cooperative. I wanted someone petite because it just gave the landscape a bit more grandeur. It made everything else look big.”
For the location, Macmillan picked a 15th-century Mapledurham Watermill in Oxfordshire, about an 80-minute drive from London. In the final image, Livingstone is depicted as a witch-like figure dressed in all black, standing amongst trees in front of an eerie white building.
“Nowadays it’s very much more modernized, beautified, and touristed,” Macmillan describes. “Then, it was quite a run-down and quite spooky place. The undergrowth was quite thick and quite tangled, and it just had a kind of eerie feel to it.”
Macmillan decided to use Kodak infrared aerochrome film, usually used for aerial photography. In order to capture infrared light, they started the shoot as early as possible. Macmillan then did “a little bit of tweaking in the chemistry to get that slightly dark, surrealistic, evil kind of feeling to it.” He would then boil and freeze the film to make it grainy and undefined.
Now the artist behind the work, Keith “Keef”Macmillan, has spoken about the photo, finally revealing the identity of the woman in the image.
Incredibly, Livingstone herself was recently tracked down. Speaking on the image she recalled: “I had to get up at about four o’clock in the morning, or something as ridiculously early as that.”
“It was absolutely freezing,” she continued. “I remember Keith rushing around with dry ice, throwing that into the pond nearby, and that didn’t seem to be working very well, so he was using a smoke machine. But it was just one of those very cold English mornings.”
Apparently Macmillan brought along a taxidermy crow and a real black cat. Macmillan says that Livingstone is holding the cat in the final shot, although Livingstone herself has no memory of the cat.
“When I saw the cover, I thought it was quite interesting, but I thought, ‘Well, that could be anybody,’ so it’s not like I got any kind of ego buzz out of it,” described Livingstone.
Check out the iconic artwork below.