Photographer/enigma Brian Griffin collects his music images of the Bunnymen, Depeche and more in new book ‘POP’.
You know his eradefining early ’80s covers for Depeche Mode and Echo & The Bunnymen. Now the snapper returns with a career-spanning photobook, and unseen images of Iggy, Costello and Kate Bush.
As well as being a time of rampant musical creativity, the post-punk period gave us much outstanding record sleeve art. One of the time’s key photographers was Brian Griffin, whose era-documenting classic covers include early releases by Echo & The Bunnymen and Depeche Mode, plus further unforgettable frames for Ian Dury, Peter Hammill, The Teardrop Explodes and others. These images, press portraits and unseen outtakes are included in his compendious new hardback ‘POP’, which will be published in October. A purely studio-based operator (“I’ve never pointed a camera at a band on-stage, ever,” he says), Griffin was raised in the Black Country and started work as a corporate photographer in 1972. After moving into the rock arena, ‘POP’ finds him in the late ’70s taking portraits of The Clash, The Pop Group and Peter Gabriel, and the Stiff and Radar label rosters; major label cover commissions like Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! and Iggy Pop’s Soldier albums followed. “That was a massive experience,” says Griffin. “I went to meet Iggy at a rehearsal studio in London Bridge. He got a plastic bin and pee’d in it in front of me. I thought, I’ve got to win this.” Working out of his Rotherhithe studio, the first half of the ’80s were busy for Griffin. Alongside the book’s portraits of Kate Bush, The Specials, Bryan Ferry, Talk Talk and Siouxsie Sioux, his role as designated photographer for the Bunnymen and Depeche Mode is illustrated by outtakes from numerous album sleeve shoots. The pictures retain their ability to impress: technically accomplished and immediate, they have a filmic, storytelling quality, with one foot in the world of dreams. His methods of manipulating light – making the outdoors look like the indoors was one technique – were central, says Griffin. “Working for magazines I’d learned how to mix light and to light outdoors, and I started to employ that in the studio,” he adds. “It’s how you play with the human mind a little bit. People wanted shafts of light, so I started to use knicker elastic and to twang it in front of the camera, and have a long exposure with light hitting the whiteness of it. We were experimenting a lot. I was full of creative spirit and I loved what I was achieving. You don’t know that things can’t be done. I think that brought some magic.” Though he continued to photograph subjects including Queen, John Cale and Brian Eno, his music work slowed in the later ’80s, after, says Griffin, “Anton Corbijn took the Bunnymen and Depeche Mode.” He worked in film and advertising from 1991 to 2002, and remains active as a photographer. “I’d love to do covers again, but I never get asked,” he says. What would he do with the Bunnymen or Depeche Mode in 2017, wonders MOJO? “I could still make them amazing,” he says. “In fact, I’d make them better now.”
“IGGY GOT A PLASTIC BIN AND PEE’D IN IT… I THOUGHT, I’VE GOT TO WIN THIS.”
‘POP’, which is dedicated to design genius Barney Bubbles, will launch in October at the Soundedit festival in Lodz, Poland. See briangriffin.co.uk for info