Until relatively recently, Anton Corbijn was probably most famous for being the creative director behind the visual output of Depeche Mode and U2. Now, however, his career has branched out, with an award-winning directorial debut on the feature-film, ‘Control,’ about the life and death of Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis; and with his striking advertising and campaign work for G-Star.
Born in Strijen in the Netherlands, Anton started his career as a music photographer in around 1975, when he saw the Dutch musician Herman Brood playing at a cafe in Groningen. His pictures gained instant exposure for Brood, and Anton remained his ‘in-house’ photographer until the singer’s death in 2001. Anton has since maintained a similar pattern of long-term collaboration with many other artists.
“ I’m not a natural choice for fashion, but I really like G-Star—I like the people there, I like their attitude “
In the following years Anton got to photograph hundreds of world famous celebrities, including David Bowie, Miles Davis, Robert DeNiro, Stephen Hawking, Elvis Costello and Clint Eastwood. But it is his iconic covers for the U2 albums ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘Achtung Baby’ as well as his other work with the band that have made the greatest impression. Anton later moved into directing music videos and made a short film about Captain Beefheart for the BBC called ‘Some Yoyo Stuff’ that, ultimately, led to ‘Control.’
He describes how his collaboration with G-Star began: “They asked me if I would help them find a new way of shooting their campaigns. I gave them a briefing of what I thought they could do, and they liked it very much and said I should be the one to shoot their campaign. I’m not a natural choice for fashion, but I really like G-Star—I like the people there, I like their attitude.”
The first campaign gave Anton the opportunity to challenge G-Star’s established advertising house-style and create a fresh, new look: “In old G-Star campaigns they shot models in studios against a white background. I wanted to change that. So instead of using empty studios we used outdoor locations, and instead of models we used Alexandra and Toby from ‘Control,’ because G-Star loved the film, and I loved the actors.”
The campaign was an instant success that breathed new life into G-Star’s image. Anton was delighted to be invited back for the following campaign,accepting on condition that he could try something new: “We did the next shoot in black and white, which was another transition.”
His third campaign continued the strong black-and-white visuals - this time with a more refined, elegant atmosphere - and featured an old friend. “The campaign with Liv Tyler was a little softer. I first met Liv in 1996 to photograph her for a German magazine. She is an absolutely wonderful girl, she looks classical yet she has an edge, it’s an intriguing combination. It sort of sums up G-Star, I guess.”
Delighted with the results of the campaign shoot, both Anton and Liv jumped at the opportunity to return for the Fall/Winter campaign, although Anton, wanted to shake things up again: “The second campaign with Liv focused more on her edginess, where the first was more focused on her classicism.”The results of their collaboration appeared in 2010 on billboards and magazines across the world.
Keep watching G-Star for more on Anton Corbijn.