Anton Corbijn, the humble genius

Anton Corbijn isn’t flashy. He is a tall, slim, awkward man, who always provokes a laugh from the people he works with.

Anton is born in the ‘50s, on a small island in the Netherlands, to a strict protestant family. His father was the village pastor. His family wasn’t very artsy, except his grandfather, who was an art teacher and painter. Whether Anton inherited some of his granddad’s talent, or he carved his path himself, it does not matter. What does matter is the results.

When his family moved away from the island, his interest in music persuaded him to try photography, so he can be as close to the music scene as possible. In his own words, “music really was the only reason why I ever picked up a camera”. One day, as a teen, he decided to go to a concert in the town’s square, and he thought that bringing his dad’s camera would help him because he was too shy to go alone and with nothing to do. And it happened – the camera gave him some extra courage. He took a few pictures and decided this is what he wants to do.

To get close to the music world, he started capturing photos as a fan. But his fandom quickly transformed into a profession. Later down the road, Anton had the opportunity to work for countless magazines, including VOGUE, NME, Rolling Stone, and many more. He worked with rock stars like David Bowie, U2, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Nirvana, Nick Cave, and started making music videos for them. One of his most remarkable ones are Depeche Mode’s notorious video for “Enjoy the Silence”, and Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box“. He even designed album covers (Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel) and scene decor.

“Photography is really very simple. If you want it to make it simple, it can be very simple (…) I think the simplicity suits me.”

(joy division)

An unusual technique that Corbijn uses sometimes, is the blurred portraits. Here, we can see Sinéad O’Connor, which represents the punk vibe very effectively as you “get the feeling a punk is coming to you”.

Corbijn admits to people saying to him that they feel his pictures tell the truth. He says this is not the case; he can produce a story using his lenses. For example, to develop a picture that looks like it was taken with a paparazzi-like here, with Cameron Diaz:

“Photography is a way to meet very interesting people” – he admits. It is known that Anton forms long-lasting friendships with many people from the music scene. One of them is Depeche Mode (as you may have guessed at this point), which put him on the music horizon as a photography and videography star, with his work on countless videos and photography books, like the previous collaboration with them, which sells for a staggering amount of 750 dollars.

Anton Corbijn’s style can be described as dark, emotionally rich, and full of expressions. His portrait photographs can be seen worldwide. Anton Corbijn even has a few movies in his career – a fine example is the film Control, which captures the history of Joy Division and Ian Curtis (and a personal favourite).