“A record becomes famous because of the music… but the fact is that there is no album without a cover”, says Antoine de Beaupré, as he reflects on the role of the album cover in the musical landscape today. While the talk about the relevance of the album format and physical discs has risen and fallen in the age of streaming, his position on the matter remains clear. “You can put whatever you want on a blanket, but you need something. Even on your phone, the first contact you have with an album is the image, whether it says something or not.

A curator and gallery owner who has worked extensively in the field of photography, de Beaupré is just as passionate about music and has built up a collection of more than 15,000 albums over the years. “I started with hip hop records in the 80s when I was 14. Then I studied jazz composition at Berklee College of Music, so music was my food. At that time, the LPs were lying around, so I started buying a lot of them. I became a collector without wanting to but I never stopped collecting records,” he tells CR.

Top: The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street, Rolling Stones Records, 1972. Photograph: Robert Frank © The Andrea Frank Foundation; Design: John Van Hamersveld/Norman Sieff. Above: Miles Davis, Tutu, Warner Bros. Records, 1986. Photography: Irving Penn; Design: Eiko Ishioka

De Beaupré’s vast collection forms the basis of the latest exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery in London, which is a love letter in the 30cm x 30cm square format that is the album cover. Bringing together more than 200 records, the exhibition examines some of the most iconic works of art of our time, created by celebrated photographers ranging from Nan Goldin to William Eggleston, as well as equally visionary but lesser-known artists.