Photography: Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn has been at the top of his game as a photographer since the 1980s but, with two feature films under his belt, is establishing a reputation as a top-quality film director.

This photographer lives between showing himself and closing himself off to and from the world. It’s increasingly important for him to leave an impression of peoples’ sould. He knows fear of death from close up, and survival’s many facets. It’s important for him to not idealize, but to transform everything through the sieve of fantasy.

Corbijn was born in 1955 on the Dutch island of Strijen whose isolation from cultural and contemporary music, the amplification of sound and nearness of rock stars, resulted in a heightened and more intense impact on the young boy whenever live concerts took place on the island, which was considered a rare occurrence. In fact, it was the experience of contemporary rock music that provided the catalyst and served as impetus to prompt Anton Corbijn to move in the direction of photography. Distant news of Woodstock, the 1969 music festival that became a legend, also made a deep impression of Corbijn, who grabbing his father’s camera used it to legitimize his presence and serve as an antidote to his modesty by gaining proximity to the musicians.


Anton Corbijn grew up in an orderly, religious household in Holland with his father, who was a Protestant church minister, and his mother, a nurse. As a teenager he was a tall, shy person who loved music. His photographic career began as result of his urge to get closer to the stage.


When the family moved to another town when he was 17 there was a concert by the local band, Solution. “I desperately wanted to see it, but didn’t have anyone to go with, so I took along my father’s camera to give me some sort of excuse for being there. I took a few pictures and sent them to a newspaper, which published them straight away.”


There were more concerts, and the leading newspapers in Holland were soon publishing his photos on a regular basis. After a couple of years, which included aborted photographic studies in The Hague and an eight-month stint as a photographer’s assistant, he moved to London in 1979. It was the music of the group Joy Division that convinced him to take this crucial step. He was so passionate about their music that he felt he just had to live near them. One of his first photos in the UK was in fact of Joy Division, with Ian Curtis in the foreground. The picture first became famous after Curtis’s death.


Anton Corbijn’s name may be most known by the general public in conjunction with music award ceremonies and is associated with the image of such famous performers as Depeche Mode, U2, Nirvana, Coldplay, Metallica, Rollins Band, and the Killers. For this reason, we are presenting a selection of video clips between 1988 and 2005 that have won the highest acclaim in the profession.


From among the bands listed we have dedicated a separate room for the portrait of the members of the Depeche Mode band. The Dutch photographer and the internationally renowned band are long-time closely aligned friends and work associates to the present day, the relationship leading to constant renewal that deeply affects the creative process mutually.


Considered a marker in Corbijn’s career, the highly acclaimed 2007 feature film, Control, about lead singer Ian Curtis of the Joy Division will be shown several times during the exhibition.

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Throughout his work Corbijn examines various social and psychological manifestations that relate to the concept of star. In the early black-and-white, as well as the so-called Star Trak series he raises the question of being a star as a life-style or as a psychological state of being. We encounter well-known personalities in his photographs about whom the audience at large has formed an image of their person and their lives as a result of their continuous appearances and roles. In Corbijn pictures their spontaneous deeply human revelations and the exposure of their elusive true personalities seem disturbing to us, almost a lie.

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Identification with stars, more precisely, with idols has become one of the most interesting and unusual socio-psychological questions in the last half a century. The question of the identity of stars has preoccupied the Dutch artist to the extent that returning to the island of Strijen he placed himself under the same scrutiny. In the series titled, a. somebody, he divulges his own personality as part of a self-awareness process through the aid of portraits about himself — we are referring to disguised self-portraits —by taking on the body of departed musicians, in part as homage and in part as a retrospective of his career path.

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One Response to Photography: Anton Corbijn

  1. Sysy says:

    Nice article

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