Dutch lens­man Cor­bijn toasts 60 with new ex­pos

The China Post - - LIFE - BY JAN HENNOP

Famed for shoot­ing su­per­stars from Bjork to U2 in off­beat poses, Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher An­ton Cor­bijn is him­self tak­ing cen­ter stage with two ex­hi­bi­tions to mark his 60th birth­day.

Cor­bijn has since the mid-70s forged a close re­la­tion­ship with bands in­clud­ing the Rolling Stones and elec­tronic masters Depeche Mode, shoot­ing and designing many of their al­bum cov­ers and di­rect­ing their mu­sic videos.

His close in­volve­ment with U2 and Depeche Mode has earned him the ep­i­thet as those bands’ “un­seen mem­ber.”

“To me, th­ese ex­hi­bi­tions are a cel­e­bra­tion. It’s the cul­mi­na­tion of four decades of my work,” Cor­bijn, also a fea­ture film direc­tor, told AFP in an in­ter­view.

From fa­mous mu­si­cians like Nir­vana’s Kurt Cobain, Nick Cave or Miles Davis to artist Ai WeiWei and even a unique se­ries of self- por­traits, Cor­bijn has dug up a trea­sure trove that is now on show at two neigh­bor­ing mu­se­ums in The Hague.

One en­ti­tled sim­ply “1-2-3-4,” at The Mu­seum of Photography, of­fers por­traits of some of the world’s most fa­mous rock stars — many se­lected from con­tact sheets kept within Cor­bijn’s per­sonal ar­chives and never shown be­fore in public.

At the Ge­meen­te­mu­seum next door, a “more se­ri­ous” show called “Hol­lands Deep” traces Cor­bijn’s work from a gan­gly teenager armed with a small cam­era at rock con­certs in the early 1970s to the ma­ture mas­ter of por­trait photography.

For the first time, the “1-2-3-4” ex­hi­bi­tion for in­stance shows pic­tures Cor­bijn took of the Rolling Stones pranc­ing around wear­ing strange masks, all shot in his trade­mark mono­chrome style.

An­other first in­cludes a study of a youth­ful Mick Jag­ger, star- ing provoca­tively into the cam­era. There is also a rare photo of U2 front- man Bono in a bath­tub, a color pic­ture of the Ir­ish rock band’s four mem­bers with their fa­thers, and an­other of them dressed up as drag queens.

‘Deep Dutch roots’

At the Ge­meen­te­mu­seum, the pic­tures are far more per­sonal, ex­plor­ing the artist’s own ru­ral and Dutch Calvin­ist roots.

“Hol­lands Deep,” whose ti­tle comes from the huge es­tu­ary south of the port city of Rot­ter­dam near where Cor­bijn grew up, in­cludes self-por­traits with the artist dressed as his mu­si­cal he­roes — Elvis Pres­ley, Jimi Hen­drix, Sid Vi­cious, Kurt Cobain and John Len­non, to name a few. All show his small birth­place of Stri­jen in the back­ground.

Th­ese shots “com­bine my ob­ses­sion with mu­sic with my very re­li­gious par­ents’ ob­ses­sion with life af­ter death,” Cor­bijn told AFP.

They give a peek into his psy­che as a man who broke away from a deeply Protes­tant up­bring­ing to plunge pas­sion­ately into the heady world of rock-and-roll and movie stars.

“The world of mu­sic seemed to be so much more promis­ing as a world that held an ex­cit­ing life­style,” he said.

“At home I was al­ways taught that one should keep a low pro­file. It took me years to re­al­ize that I ac­tu­ally al­ways wanted to be some­body ... My work brings me closer to the peo­ple that achieved that.”

‘Era slip­ping away’

To­day, the pho­tog­ra­pher said he doesn’t re­flect much on his own mor­tal­ity and plans to keep his 60th birth­day on May 20 “small and pri­vate.”

As for the ex­hi­bi­tions, “it’s a cel­e­bra­tion, but it’s also about a world I feel is slip­ping away from us.

“Peo­ple don’t do this kind of photography any­more. I think be­cause of the In­ter­net peo­ple aren’t so cu­ri­ous any­more to dive into the real world with a cam­era and find things out for them­selves,” he said.

Th­ese days, Cor­bijn him­self con­cen­trates on di­rect­ing movies, which “takes up al­most all of my time.”

His spy thriller “A Most Wanted Man,” star­ring the late Philip Sey­mour Hoffman, was re­leased last Septem­ber and his lat­est film “Life,” about the tragic life of 1950’s star James Dean, pre­miered to crit­i­cal ac­claim at the 65th Ber­lin In­ter­na­tional Film fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary.

Long years of rub­bing shoul­ders with top world celebri­ties, how­ever, has not rubbed off on Cor­bijn.

“I’m a lo­cal boy made good,” he said with the hint of a smile.

The ret­ro­spec­tives “Hol­lands Deep” and “1-2-3-4” run un­til June 21 at The Hague Mu­seum of Photography and Ge­meen­te­mu­seum.


Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher An­ton Cor­bijn poses in front of a self-por­trait at the Ge­meente Mu­seum in The Hague on March 19.

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