For over four decades, Anton Corbijn has shaped the image of bands and musicians such as Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Tom Waits, U2 or the Rolling Stones with his iconic portraits. With the exhibition Anton Corbijn. The Living and the Dead the Bucerius Art Forum is dedicating an extensive show to the internationally renowned photographer.
The exhibition presents 119 analogue works by Anton Corbijn, including previously unpublished photos. The first part is devoted to portraits of musicians, mostly commissioned works, and shows a selection of 77 of Corbijn’s best-known photographs. Many of the photographs from these series went on to become iconic images. Corbijn’s imperfect, narrative style helped shape the image of a number of artists, aiding their efforts to stand out from the rock musicians of the older generation. In his contract work, Corbijn fought early on for the creative freedom to realise in parallel his own motifs and visions. In the second part of the exhibition, the mostly commissioned photographs are juxtaposed with the freelance series a. somebody. For this two-part series, Corbijn dressed up as various musicians and photographed himself in the rural environs of his hometown of Strijen. These colour images are juxtaposed in the show with vertical black-and-white photographs taken in the studio, resembling passport photos. These studio shots are arguably the artist’s most free-form works. For Cemeteries, a previously unpublished series from 1982 the artist captures in his signature style not people but tomb monuments.
Like so many photographers, Corbijn has been navigating between artistic and commercial photography in his career. The exhibition examines the seldom-posed question: When does photography become art?