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Holy god. The first thing that I thought when I saw this cover was: “what a fearsome thoroughbred.”

Photographer Jean Paul Goude took this photo in 1978 for a New York Magazine profile of model Grace Jones. The article (and the accompanying photographs) would help to transform her into a pop singer and gay icon. When Island Life – the punnily-titled compilation of her biggest singles for Island Records – was released in 1986, this image was pulled out of the bottom draw and dusted off to create a classic album cover.

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Some more background on the original image has emerged with the release (the puns continue) of So Far So Goude, by Jean-Paul Goude with Patrick Mouries. At the time of the photo Goude was Jones’ lover and she was his muse. Before they fell out, they furthered each other’s career in a way neither could have imagined.

“Initially, she was flattered by all of my attention,” says Goude. “And she’s no dope – Grace is an opportunist and she knew my vision was good for her career. Initially, she let herself be taken over, but then she suspected that I had only fallen in love with her image.”

If you’re wondering how Jones’ body can do this pose, the simple answer is that it can’t. Goude employs what is technically referred to as “visual trickery”. Here’s how it was done:

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Here’s a picture of somebody else trying the pose:

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Describing the concept, Goude says “…unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque” (the ballet pose in the picture). “The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion.”

Apart from this album cover the only thing I previously knew about Jones was that she was good friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80’s. It kind of makes sense – they both look as if they have emerged from an alternate reality where infants are breastfed steroids and the puny are used as toothpicks. 25 years later he’s the conservative Governor of California while she’s still drunkenly touring the world and releasing albums with cover art like this (2008’s Hurricane):

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