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Book Review

Anton Corbijn 1-2-3-4

Anton Corbijn 1-2-3-4

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1-2- 3-4
Anton Corbijn
352 Pages

"All great photographers have a third eye and Anton Corbijn has three third eyes," writes guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones fame about renowned photographer Anton Corbijn's art in the book 1-2-3-4. Richards is one of a number of artists, including U2's singer Bono and bassist Adam Clayton, Depeche Mode's Martin Gore, Metallica's Lars Ulrich, REM's Michael Stipe, and Nick Cave who pay personal tribute to Corbijn's photographs and work in this voluminous book that encompasses portraits of hundreds of artists from different generations. Corbijn, whose work rose to prominence in the late '70s and especially during the '80s is considered one of the most impactful visual creators of our time. For 40 years, this Dutch photographer and filmmaker has captured some of the most celebrated musical acts and other artists of different eras. It's a long and esteemed list. His images defined the way musicians were portrayed and his work in the area of music photography accounts for some of today's most vivid and often unusual portrayals. Corbijn's sensibility and style have made him one of the preeminent portrait photographers of this era.

For this book, the celebrated photographer brought together a far broader range of portraits, spanning the years from 1980 to 2015. The selection consists of a veritable who's who in the music industry. Many of these photographs are previously unpublished or rarely seen. The number of photographs in this volume is enormous but despite their sheer number, his photographs are highly recognizable and each is unique in its core visual features. Unlike the glamorous, polished, and sometimes over-the-top photographs that have become the standard in the media, Corbijn took a different road by taking the opposite approach of less polished and often contrasting photographs that deepened the senses and often brought to the forefront different and often hidden details. His pictures are governed by a feeling for structure and balance that was honed by a search for imperfections, contrasts, and intimacy. What is more, he accentuated even their otherworldly features already present in these people's public image. Each photograph in this book hints at meaning beyond the image it carries. At its best, it shows an equivalent to the music contained within or the artists' inner landscapes.

What he was able to do was to capture the musicians' moods and their unspoken sentiments and show their essence—their aura. This way they are maybe less glamorous and glorified celebrities but thoughtful people or even actors where the photograph added an additional emotional depth or dimension both to their personalities and music. While these are some of the most photographed people in the world and their images are constantly present in the media, Corbijn is able to give people a different kind of image, thus giving people a glimpse of the depth behind their media personas. Another important ingredient in his portraits is the intensity which is due to personal closeness. Most of these pictures have resulted from relationships that have survived the test of time. With some artists such as U2, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits, to name but a few, he was able to forge working relationships that have sustained over long periods and have resulted in other works beyond photographs such as videos, concert films and thematic books.

The photographs are sequenced randomly, with portraits of Mick Jagger and Bono, for example, taken at various points in their careers from as early as 1983 up to the present times. That said, it is still possible to appreciate the book via a chronological lens as there is a clear development to Corbijn's style through the years, from quite ordinary portraits to those which are truly works of art. As with both of the aforementioned artists and many others represented in this book with whom he forged longstanding working relationships, it is possible to trace Corbijn's development and blossoming into the master artist that he became.

Also, the environment where the artists were photographed plays an important role in what makes a Corbijn portrait. With various artists, he i creates portraits that are set against simple but dramatic sceneries and landscapes thus transforming the backdrops into protagonists in their own right. So artists are placed against urban backgrounds under lowering skies or photographed on an empty beach or a desert plain. Examples of such photographs include Martin Gore looking at the Twin Towers in New York in 1990, a sharply dressed Mick Jagger pictured in a derelict alley in Glasgow, rapper LL Cool J standing in a wet, cobblestone street, or Tom Waits sitting on a snare drum on railroad tracks, to name but a few of the most striking uses of backdrop and location.

As is true of all types of creative expression, music and photography are highly subjective endeavors, bound as they are to individual experiences and associations, subject to transformations of time. Though music and photographs exist to speak for themselves, they undoubtedly influence one another greatly and have met in infinite ways throughout history. Every musician, band or music label has always strived to create a visual identity as unique as their sound. As a result, sounds and images are fused in the imagination of the listeners. And in Corbijn's work, these two areas have met in unique yet varied ways. The greatest strength of Anton Corbijn's work as shown in this book is its far-reaching nature. A career with 5 or 6 iconic photographs is great for a photographer but Corbijn has had hundreds of them. In 1-2-3-4 iconic images abound. It shows how Anton Corbijn's work has influenced our sense of how modern life looks.

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