This 2009 documentary about iconic photographer Anton Corbijn has just seen the light of day on DVD. First-time feature documentary maker Josh Whiteman shot the film at the same time the Corbijn was shooting his first feature film, Control, the Ian Curtis bio-pic released in early 2008. Whiteman takes the opportunity to capture Corbijn just as he is about to enter a new stage in his career, while at the same time, look back on his past work photographing the likes of Joy Division, U2 and Depeche Mode.
The Dutch-born photographer first made a name for himself with his grainy, black & white shots of Joy Division. Corbijn left The Netherlands for England specifically to work with the band. Whiteman does a good job of explaining what is special about Corbijn’s images and how he worked his way up to become a top music photographer. Corbijn’s unique style was not always fully appreciated at the time and a letter written by one of his clients complaining about his dark, blurry images, telling him in no uncertain terms that they would never work with him again would have crippled many young, aspiring photographers.
Of course, Anton went on to define the look of several bands including U2, R.E.M. and Nirvana. Band members, including Bono, Michael Stipe, Dave Gahan and Bernard Sumner are on hand to comment, as is Corbijn himself.
While it might have seemed to be a good idea at the time to make this film while Control was being shot, the result is that this feels like two films in one. The first is the story of Anton; the other is the making of Control. Unfortunately they don’t sit comfortably next to each other. Whiteman clumsily cuts back and forth between the two competing films, which each would have been fine on their own.
That’s my only gripe. Otherwise this film gives a revealing insight into one of the finest photographers working today.
Click here to listen to an interview with Anton Corbijn recorded in 2008, just after Control was released: