The Art of Potography

High Times has produced some of the most remarkable cannabis photography the world has ever seen. This is all the more impressive considering that the High Times centerfold started out as a satire of Playboy. In fact, our very first centerfold, in the Fall 1974 issue, featured a 20-pound brick of Colombian weed seductively posed on a white silk sheet. The accompanying text portrayed the pot as a flirtatious model and even included measurements (15″ x 15″ x 7″).

After those early issues, High Times established itself as a counterculture mainstay, and the centerfold took on a life of its own. It became a space where our photographers could share the plant’s rare beauty with an audience that didn’t have access to well-grown weed. It was also a space that inspired the HT staff to reach new creative heights in telling a story through still life.

Over the years, thanks to great photographers, cannabis-inspired creativity and a whole lot of weed, the High Times centerfold has yielded an impressive array of pot photos. For our 500th issue, we’re highlighting some of our favorites, from the 1970s to the present day.

The ’70s

Before the indoor-cultivation revolution, smokers relied on sun-grown weed smuggled into the United States from places like Mexico, Jamaica and Colombia. This centerfold, from our Spring 1975 issue, features some of the choicest bud the ’70s had to offer: Thai Stick. Originating in Thailand, Thai Stick was potent pot painstakingly tied to stems. It was also expensive, costing as much as $2,500 per pound.

One of our all-time-favorite shots, this centerfold features a ton of pot! An actual ton. That’s 2,000 pounds, or 32,000 ounces—plus one lucky model who got to roll around in all that weed while watching Johnny Carson. This epic pic, shot by the legendary pot photographer Steve Cooper, appeared in our March 1978 issue.

The ’80s

Dubbed “Dope in Space,” this centerfold illustrates what’s possible when a magazine staff gets high and contemplates the question, ‘What if there was marijuana in outer space?” The shoot produced this centerfold, plus the cover (featuring a joint rocketing to the moon) and a second double-page spread (featuring a toy plane navigating through an asteroid field comprised of chunks of cocaine) for our June 1981 issue.

In our July 1988 issue, we celebrated the rebellious spirit of the Founding Fathers with our own take on the Boston Tea Party. While High Times has always supported patriotic protest as a way to win freedom for cannabis consumers from an oppressive government, it would be awfully tough to dump all of that beautiful East India Company weed into the harbor…

The ’90s

Our November 1990 centerfold reminded readers that life is fleeting. Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “Remember that you must die.” It was also a popular artistic motif over the centuries, inspiring paintings that usually included a skull, an hourglass and burning candles. Our take on Memento mori featured a few of those classic symbols along with some primo pot, as if to say: “Life is too short to smoke bad weed.”

Located in Wiltshire, England, and erected around 3000 BC, Stonehenge has been baffling archaeologists and scholars since its discovery. Our homage, Stonedhenge, was erected at the High Times office for our September 1995 issue and taken down and consumed shortly thereafter. While it may not be as awe-inspiring as the original, Stonedhenge is nonetheless an impressive feat of cannabis construction.

The 2000s

Think of this still life from our October 2002 issue as the granddaddy of all those Instagram photos of meticulously manicured buds posed next to various waxes and shatters. This shot, which predates both Instagram and the concentrate craze, features a ring of Sweet Pink Grapefruit surrounding five different kinds of hash on a bed of seeds.

An article on the rise of surfer smugglers in the 1960s and ’70s blossomed into an ambitious shoot with a surfboard, a starfish and a pound of The Gift. Long-time High Times photog Freebie snapped this beachside shot, and if you’re having trouble with the perspective, take our word for it: That’s a lot of pot.

The 2010s

As more and more smokers converted to concentrates in the early part of the decade, High Times asked the question: “Is 710 the new 420?” Never much for subtlety, we had one of our favorite pot photographers, Justin Cannabis, grab a scale and literally weigh the contenders—buds on one side, dabs on the other—for our July 2013 issue.

Sometimes a strain name kick-starts creativity. Such was the case for this epic still life featuring Jack Sparrow. Once again, we turned to Justin Cannabis, who put together this pirate-themed pic, complete with an irie ship sailing on a sea of green. We’re guessing plenty of readers were dreaming of walking the plank after seeing our February 2017 issue.

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