The folks in our #WFH Diaries have described literally hundreds of creative ways they've been passing the time in quarantine. Photographer Michel Leroy initially felt a keen sense of loss as work dried up, but soon the downtime led to a wonderfully fulfilling project, in which he and his family have been recreating classic album covers, impeccably crafted, and posting them to Instagram.
Leroy's 8-year-old daughter is the undisputed star of the series, channeling musicians as diverse as PJ Harvey and Marilyn Manson in the series. Below are three of those creations—based on Harvey's Rid of Me, Manson's Smells Like Children, and U2's War.
Leroy was inspired initially by a photographer friend in London, Phil Adams, who posted a picture with his kids based on Parallel Lines by Blondie.
"It was an inspiration—I just loved it," he tells Muse. "It was also cute that he and his kids had done it locked up in their apartment like the rest of the world. They clearly had fun and were being a little cheeky because he left the toilet paper rolls on the floor and the backdrop didn't even reach the edges of the frame."
Leroy has a relationship with Lastolite, a U.K. maker of photographic lighting control equipment. He sent them Adams' image, and they also loved the idea—and turned it into a social-media game tagged #lastolitechallenge. Leroy then got to work creating his own submissions for the game.
"I didn't realize how much I missed the very act of shooting," he says. "I hadn't shot a single photo for more than a month, and it was was killing me. In a way, the loss of the creative process had amplified my sense of loss and despair. I needed some way to channel my creative impulses, and this was it."
"My wife and daughter worked on the hair together for two days," Leroy says of the Gaga cover. "We had pulled the nylon core out of paracord to make face masks, and instead of throwing away the inner threads, my daughter had the idea to make them into a wig. Face masks and a photo prop—I will remember those details my entire life."
As for the Highway to Hell—that was the first album Leroy ever bought as a kid growing up in Montana. It's also quite thematically apt for a pandemic, Leroy admits.
The family pick the albums together.
"My wife and I go back and think about albums and songs that meant something to us or brought us back to a particular time in our lives—some serious, some silly, and some just because they were part of our youth and lives together," Leroy says. "Then I put them all together and I leave it mostly to my daughter to pick her favorite images."
They rummage through their closets together, finding the right props and clothes for each shot.
"The complications are, we live in a two-bedroom apartment and I only have a few lights at home," Leroy says. "Luckily my professional life has been all about solving those sorts of problems, so I do what I can with what I have. It makes it fun for me to have to figure out how to create with all these constraints. My daughter and wife are in charge of wardrobe and props. I take care of lighting and cameras. It's just like any normal photoshoot, except we only have what is in our apartment to work with."
The response, he says, has been "overwhelming and heartwarming. More than the likes, it's the comments and DMs. People tell me about where they first heard that album, what it meant to them. A lot of people also talk about how how they have gone back and listened to the albums because it reminded them."
In all, the very act of creativity—as for so many people lately—has been a balm in difficult times.
"It's a means of bringing our family together," Leroy says. "Not just physically—because after two months in a 900-square-foot New York City apartment, we are plenty close—but mentally. It has become a game we play together."
For more on great album covers, check out the new Muse series "The Art of the Album Cover."