Richie Fahey has talked to MI6 about his work creating the cover art for the new US editions of the classic Ian Fleming novels...

Richie Fahey Interview - Designing Retro Fleming
21st August 2003

The cover art for the new Penguin USA paperback editions has been created by New York photographer and painter Richie Fahey. MI6 caught up with him to find out what it takes to create the spectacular covers and how he creates the retro look for classic Bond.

Designing A Classic

Richie told MI6 about his first work, "Penguin decided to start with Casino Royale. I read the book, researched old James Bond covers, and made some sketches. I gave the sketches to Roseanne Serra, the art director for the series, and she presented them to Penguin and the Ian Fleming estate. Together they chose one of the sketches which consisted of: Vesper, nude standing on the left side of the cover; le Chiffre dealing baccarat with 2 players and with James Bond in the foreground within a panel in the middle of the cover; title on lower right and Ian Fleming's name in the upper right hand corner. However, the Ian Fleming estate specified that they did not want naked women nor James Bond on any covers.

With the help of my wife Maria Cristina, who did the hair, make-up and styling for the series, Vesper was photographed in a black cocktail dress and James Bond was photographed with low-key lighting so he could not be recognized. For le Chiffre, a friend was photographed with my wife and me. I photographed everything in black and white with a medium format camera.


Images used with permission.

From the contacts from the shoot, I selected images and composed different versions to show to Roseanne. We picked one version and I made 11x14 black and white prints of Vesper, le Chiffre at the Baccarat table, and James Bond. I then colored them with photo oil paints using q-tips and bits of cotton balls wrapped around a toothpick.

After they dried, I scanned them and arranged them and tried different type faces for the title and Ian Fleming's name. I showed this to Roseanne and we chose the type faces that worked best. Roseanne thought the cover was lacking something. We decided maybe falling playing cards would be good so I went and photographed, printed, colored and scanned falling cards.


Roseanne showed this version to Penguin and the Ian Fleming Estate. The Ian Fleming Estate did not like the cover (I think they really liked the British versions and mine are very different from them) but Penguin and the Estate were able to work it out by taking James Bond off the cover.

The rest of the covers would basically go through the same process and follow the same guidelines we created from Casino Royale: Ian Fleming in the upper right, colorful background, panel in the middle, a female character, the villain and an element from the story with my inspirations coming from the story and old James Bond covers.

James Bond would only appear on a couple covers as small and unrecognizable figures and as the hand holding the gun on the back. I tried photographing the women naked for the next two covers and the Estate did not seem to mind. (Honey is naked when James first meets her)

00-Seven Questions

How do you describe your job?
Photographer / Designer.

Where are you based?
New York City, USA.

Where did you study?
I received a BFA at the University of South Carolina and studied photography at Rochester Institute of Technology

How long have you been an artist?
I have been hand-coloring black and white photos in one way or another since high school.

Which title was the most difficult cover to conceptualize?

What was the length of time you spent on each cover beginning to end?
Two weeks to a month

What was it that inspired you to choose your path in life?
My grandmother and great grandfather were both professional portrait painters.

Visit Richie Fahey's official website for a look at his series of covers.

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Current Editions - USA