Anton Corbijn Photography
Esquire 25th Anniversary Issue
It has been more than 40 years since Anton Corbijn, born 1955 in Strijen, discovered photography though his love for music while still at high school in Holland. He used his father’s camera for his first photos at an open-air concert in 1972. He soon moved from stage photography to portrait photography, but initially only of musicians. Anton Corbijn moved to London in 1979 to follow his love of music from there and is today widely regarded as one of the most influential photographers both in the world of music and in the world of portraiture photography.
An autodidact, he has changed his approach to photography a few times over the years but kept relatively close to his first subject matter: artists in general and specifically musicians. Some of his most well known photographs feature; Clint Eastwood, Cameron Diaz, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Naomi Campbell, William S. Burroughs, Tom Waits, Allen Ginsberg, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Robert De Niro, Gerhard Richter, Ai Weiwei, Lucian Freud and is considered to be the ‘house’ photographer of U2 for the last 30 odd years and for Depeche Mode for almost as long.
Anton Corbijn is very interested in pushing the boundaries in respect to the media he works in. He has been working in film and video with some of the musicians he photographed and was in 1983 one of the first photographers to direct music videos. He has since made approximately 80 music videos; for among others U2, Johnny Cash, Arcade Fire, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Metallica, Nick Cave, Coldplay and The Killers. He also made in 1993 a short film with and about Don van Vliet a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, called “Some Yo Yo Stuff”.
His music video work is highly acclaimed and has won him an MTV award for Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”, and a CADS (Creative and Design Awards) award for “outstanding achievement” for his oeuvre in 2005. A Directors series DVD was released by Palm Pictures in the same year.
Since 1990, apart from working in photography and video, Anton also worked with graphic design to create logos, posters and CD covers. Although not conventionally trained in graphic design, he has found his style by painting his own typeface. That way he successfully designed posters and record sleeves for artists like Herbert Grönemeyer and Depeche Mode and designed the logo for the Dutch city The Hague.
Anton Corbijn’s exhibitions have been extremely successful in Europe and his work can be seen in museums and galleries alike as well as in 15 published books. His most recent book WAITS/CORBIJN, which was collaboration between Anton and Tom Waits, was sold out from the publisher within a week of publication. In addition his work can be seen on over 100 record/CD sleeves featuring artists like U2, R.E.M., The Bee Gees, Morrissey, The Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, Bryan Ferry, The Killers, Bruce Springsteen, James Last, JJ Cale, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and Metallica.
For Depeche Mode he has designed stage-sets as well as the on-stage visuals for all their world tours for the last 20 years.
In 2005 Anton Corbijn started working on (directing/co-producing/financing) his first feature film “CONTROL”, which was filmed during the summer of 2006, and released in October 2007. It was his most ambitious projects to date and a further extension to his versatile artistic career. The film is a love story about the life, and death, of Ian Curtis, who was Joy Division’s singer. This subject was very close to Anton’s heart as Joy Division was the reason for why he’d moved from Holland to London as he “wanted to be closer to where their music came from”. “CONTROL” and Anton as a director won around 20 awards worldwide, including 5 BIFA’s, one of those for Sam Riley as the lead actor.
Anton Corbijn has in recent years worked on a new series of portraits of painters, directed a second feature film called “The American” with George Clooney in the lead which occupied the #1 spot in the USA in 2010. His third feature called “A Most Wanted Man”, based on the novel by John Le Carré featuring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2014, and was released in September 2014 to largely amazingly positive reviews. “LIFE” a feature with Robert Pattinson shot in Canada & USA early 2014 premiered at 2015’s Berlinale. Anton has recently also managed to direct a commercial for Miss Dior with Nathalie Portman, and a Depeche Mode live DVD. Despite the film work he continues doing photography too.
In 2011 he was awarded the highest Dutch Cultural Award, the ‘Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prijs’, for his contribution and influence in the world of the arts.
In 2015 he had a few very large retrospective shows opening in both Holland and Germany, and the reactions have been phenomenal in both countries. It is scheduled to open in Stockholm in 2016. He is also prepping a new film for Lionsgate in 2016.