A look Back At Hole's Live Through This 20 Years Later
It was also the mainstream world's introduction to Courtney Love, who sang lead and wrote most of the songs on the album with guitarist Eric Erlandson. And it became one of the most controversial albums of the year due to luckless timing: It was released one week after Kurt Cobain committed suicide.
But as much as the music drew a certain type of person to the band, so did the album's artwork and packaging. That focus on the visual elements was deliberate, and according to Robin Seibert (née Sloane), the former creative director for Geffen/DGC Records, it was also all thanks to Love. "This is all Courtney's creation," Seibert told Radio.com.
In 1994, most people would have first made contact with Hole through the single "Miss World," thanks to radio play or a music video. And the subsequent decision of whether or not to buy Live Through This would have been made in person, in the aisles of a record store. Many listeners probably took a look at the crying beauty queen on the cover and decided that, yes, they would like to hear more of what's inside. Which was why, especially at the time, creating compelling imagery was vital.
Photography on Live Through This, including the iconic cover art, was primarily handled by Ellen von Unwerth, a former model, fashion photographer and music video director. Her work is so pop culturally pervasive that Complex magazine created a list of her 100 Sexiest Photo Shoots. In the late 1980s and early '90s, von Unwerth shot to fame after mass exposure from her Claudia Schiffer for Guess campaigns. These days she's the photographer of choice for many pop stars, including Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.
In the '90s, the connection people didn't often make was that Courtney Love was emulating the styling of Madonna, in the same way that, today, Beyoncé does right and many other pop stars do wrong. All of these women are trying to be multidimensional: a sex goddess who is also the boss; a mother who's also a giant star; an artist who also runs a business.
And for Love to tap a photographer like von Unwerth showed she was including sex as one of the tools in her bag of marketing tricks. It was an inspired choice, because von Unwerth is a photographer and videographer who can paint with all the shades of the female sexuality rainbow, from full nudity to beguiling Victorian. And she likes to tell a story.
Seibert is the former creative director for Geffen/DGC Records who worked with Hole on the packaging of Live Through This, as well as the subsequent visuals attached to the project. Seibert explained to Radio.com that it was her idea to work with von Unwerth, with the aim of creating something different. However, she made clear she was only connecting the already dotted line of interest between the high fashion world and Courtney Love.
"Here's the thing with this band Hole," said Seibert. "It was always Courtney's vision. I don't remember having any conversations with any of the other band members about imaging. Not that they weren't valuable, but this is all Courtney's creation. Everything to do with Hole."
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