Shooting StarsBy Kirill Galetski
Vladimir Filonov / MT
Anton Corbijn in Moscow on Thursday.
Anton Corbijn is something of a renaissance man. Having begun his career as a photographer, he has branched out into graphic design and directing music videos and feature films. Corbijn was in Moscow this week to present an exhibition of photos, titled "Four Perspectives of Anton Corbijn," which opens Friday at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition is part of the International Month of Photography in Moscow "Photobiennale-2008," which brings together the work of top international photographers -- including Ralph Gibson, Andreas Gursky and the legendary photographic cooperative "Magnum Photos" -- at locations across Moscow.
Corbijn was also in town to support the local release of his first feature film, "Control," an award-winning biographical drama about Ian Curtis, the iconic singer of British band Joy Division. Curtis killed himself in 1980 and the band split, leaving a legacy of subtle musical influence.
Corbijn, 52, was born in the small town of Strijen in the Netherlands. He started photographing musicians in 1972, using a grainy all-purpose black-and-white film called Tri-X. In 1979, enthralled by the innovative music emanating from England by bands such as Joy Division, he moved to across the Channel.
"In Holland, I'd reached the ceiling of what I thought I could do," he recalled in an interview this week. "The few times I'd been to England, the photographs were better than ones I had taken in Holland. I think that due to the intensity of the musicians in England, there was strength in the photographs."
Corbijn met Joy Division within two weeks of arriving. He went to their London concert at the Rainbow Theatre and met them backstage.
Corbijn has photographed a number of stars of music and film, such as Johnny Depp.
They agreed to a photo shoot the next day. Corbijn chose the Lancaster Gate tube station near his home as a venue for the photos, one of which graces the cover of Joy Division's Peel Sessions album. He photographed the band from behind, descending a staircase. This unusual approach appealed to the band members.
"I remember that nobody wanted to publish the photographs, but the band really liked them," he said. "And of course, after Ian died, the pictures were in demand."
Despite not having these photos published initially, the work kicked off Corbijn's career, and he went on to photograph other bands. Corbijn said his relocation gave his photography a new audience, one which started a chain reaction of appreciation that eventually led him to shoot for magazines such as Rolling Stone, Spin, Details and Vogue. He has been fortunate to mostly shoot photos of people whose work he admires.
He worked with the likes of Depeche Mode and U2, both of which have engaged him regularly since the early 1980s a photographer, album cover designer and music video director. These long-standing rapports have been crucial to his success, he said. "I feel that [they] enable you to get to places other photographers can't."
The exhibition, spanning Corbijn's entire career and including 120 photographs, will showcase four different aspects of Corbijn's work -- gritty documentary shots, streamlined photos of stars, fictionalized paparazzi shots and self portraits of Corbijn dressed up as now-deceased rock stars.
Corbijn hopes that the four-part show will show him as more than rock photographer, as there are subjects who are not musicians.
"The exhibition is four different types of work, but in a way, it's a unit," Corbijn said, "If this is the cowboys' wagon, the Indians have encircled it and attacked it from four sides. It's four ways of looking at something that seems like the same thing."
"Four Perspectives of Anton Corbijn" (Chetyre Izmereniya Antona Corbaina) runs to May 4 at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, located at 25 Petrovka. Metro Chekhovskaya. Tel. 694-2890. www.mmoma.ru.
"Photobiennale-2008" runs to May 30 at locations across Moscow. www.photo-biennale.ru