Anton Corbijn, Alexander McQueen, London, 2007, © Anton Corbijn.
Anton Corbijn, Miles Davis, Montreal, 1985, © Anton Corbijn.
Photography Museum of Amsterdam
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Anton Corbijn - inwards and onwards
June 23-September 1, 2011
In Anton Corbijn's most recent photographic project he has aimed the camera at a few of his favourite artists — Gerhard Richter, Alexander McQueen, Richard Prince, Iggy Pop, Anselm Kiefer, Damien Hirst, Tom Waits, Peter Doig, Bruce Springsteen, Lucian Freud and Karel Appel.
Corbijn's love for the musical and creative spirits is well known. Collaborating on a short film (Some YoYo Stuff, 1993)) with artist Don van Vliet — Captain Beefheart — made his appreciation for the painter clear. The project strippinggirls which he produced with Marlene Dumas in 2000 also had an influence on his interest in the painter.
Anton Corbijn is interested in how artists struggle with the creative process: the pain and the drama of the act of creation. His monumental black-and-white portraits blend austerity and aesthetics and attract attention because of the deliberate and exacting way they capture the character of the person being portrayed. The work shows Corbijn's concentrated gaze, his feeling for wonder and his ability to empathise with another.
In spite of the styling and the apparent coolness of the images, Anton Corbijn's photos have their own unique kind of intimacy. This comes more from Corbijn's vision than from how well he is acquainted with his subject. Both the form chosen as well as the interplay of his concentrated gaze and the space that he continually allows to be determined by chance are essential to the strength of this work. In this series of portraits, Corbijn reveals an extremely personal and contemplative vision of artists which in many respects are decisive for our time and culture. The social and psychological consciousness that Corbijn reveals in these portraits draws viewers into the complexity of the creative process in an unexpected way and makes them aware of the struggle that often is linked to creation. Through this, the portraits give insight into the artists depicted as well as the creator of these intriguing photographs.
The work of Anton Corbijn has had a great influence on photography throughout his long career, especially on the use of portrait photography in international media. Even at the beginning of his career, a subtle balance could be observed between documentary work and portrait photography in his atmospheric and often melancholy black-and-white photos. His implicit blurring of the lines between various photographic genres was later widely copied worldwide.
Throughout the years, Corbijn's work has continued to be innovative. In addition to photography, he has delved into graphic design, producing music videos and, more recently, film. A decisive factor in the power of his work is that it originates from a strong personal involvement with his subject. This results in photos that differ sharply from the usual stereotypical images of celebrities. Many of Corbijn's photos are characterised by an unexpected insight into the psyche of the person being portrayed. His photos always add something extra to what already exists and is known. It is because of this that numerous photos by Corbijn have grown into internationally recognised icons over the years — world-famous photographs of stars such as David Bowie, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Bono and Clint Eastwood. It can safely be said that entire generations worldwide have grown up with these photos.
In recent years, Anton Corbijn (Strijen, Zuid Holland, 1955) has been mainly known as the director of feature films such as Control (2007) and The American (2010). However, his love for photography has remained. During his career of more than thirty years, he has worked with countless musicians and actors and has been the 'house photographer' for bands such as U2 and Depeche Mode. Corbijn has also directed numerous music videos for Joy Division, Nirvana, Coldplay and Johnny Cash, among others. His photographic work has been exhibited in many prominent institutes and museums, from the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg to the Photographic Research Center in Boston and the Kunstmuseum in Vienna. A number of monographs of Corbijn's work have also been published.
The accompanying catalog Anton Corbijn - inwards and onwards (with an essay by Francis Hodgson) is published by Schirmer/Mosel Publishers, Munich (80 pages, 36 duotone plates, English edition,EUR 29.80).