Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn in 2012
Born Anton Johannes Gerrit Corbijn van Willenswaard
(1955-05-20) 20 May 1955
Strijen, Netherlands
Residence London, UK[1]
Occupation Photographer, film director, music video director
Years active 1979–present

Anton Johannes Gerrit Corbijn van Willenswaard (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɑntɔŋ kɔrˈbɛi̯n];[2] born 20 May 1955) is a Dutch photographer, music video director, and film director. He is the creative director behind the visual output of Depeche Mode and U2,[3][4] having handled the principal promotion and sleeve photography for both bands for almost three decades. Some of his works include music videos for Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" (1990), U2's "One" (version 1) (1991), Bryan Adams' "Do I Have to Say the Words? and Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" (1993), as well as the Ian Curtis biographical film Control (2007),[5] The American (2010), and A Most Wanted Man (2014), based on John le Carré's 2008 novel of the same name.

Early life and family

Anton Johannes Gerrit Corbijn van Willenswaard was born on 20 May 1955 in Strijen in the Netherlands, where his father had been appointed as parson to the Dutch Reformed Church the previous year.[6] His father, Anton Corbijn van Willenswaard (1917–2007),[7] took up the same position in Hoogland (1966) and Groningen (1972),[8] moving his wife and four children with him.[9] His mother, Marietje Groeneboer (1925–2011), was a nurse and was raised in a parson's family. Photographer and director Maarten Corbijn (born 1960)[10] is a younger brother.[11] Grandfather Anton Johannes (Corbijn) van Willenswaard (1886–1959)[12][13] was an art teacher at Christian schools in Hilversum[14] and an active member in the local Dutch Reformed Church in Hilversum.[15][16]


Corbijn began his career as a music photographer when he saw the Dutch musician Herman Brood playing in a café in Groningen around 1975. He took a lot of photographs of the band Herman Brood & His Wild Romance and these led to a rise in fame for Brood and in exposure for Corbijn.[17]

From the late 1970s the London-based New Musical Express (NME), a weekly music paper, featured his work on a regular basis and would often have a photograph by him on the front page. One such occasion was a portrait of David Bowie wearing a loincloth backstage in New York when starring in The Elephant Man.. In the early years of London-based The Face, a glossy monthly post-punk life style / music magazine, Corbijn was a regular contributor. He made his name photographing in black-and-white but in May 1989 he began taking pictures in colour using filters. His first venture in this medium was for Siouxsie Sioux.[18] Between 1998-2000, in collaboration with the painter Marlene Dumas, he worked on a project called "Stripping Girls", which took the strip clubs and peep shows of Amsterdam as their subject;[19] while Corbijn later exhibited photographs, Dumas took Polaroids which she then used as sources for her paintings.

Corbijn has photographed Bob Dylan, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Prāta Vētra, Peter Hammill, Miles Davis, Björk, Captain Beefheart, Kim Wilde, Marc Almond, Robert De Niro, Stephen Hawking, Elvis Costello, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Morrissey, Peter Murphy, Simple Minds, Clint Eastwood, The Cramps, Roxette, Herbert Grönemeyer, Annie Lennox, and Eurythmics, amongst others. Perhaps his most famous, and longest standing, association is with U2, having taken pictures of the band on their first US tour, as well as taking pictures for their Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby albums (et al.) and directing a number of accompanying videos.

Other album covers featuring work by Corbijn include those for Springsteen, Nick Cave, Siouxsie's second band The Creatures, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Therapy?, The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, The Killers, Simple Minds, R.E.M., The Bee Gees, Saybia and Moke.

Film directing

Corbijn began his music video directing career when Palais Schaumburg asked him to direct a video. After seeing the resulting video for Hockey, the band Propaganda had Corbijn direct Dr. Mabuse. After that he directed videos for David Sylvian, Echo & the Bunnymen, Golden Earring, Front 242, Depeche Mode, Roxette and U2. His first video in colour was made for U2 in 1984 for their single "Pride". In 2005 Palm Pictures released a DVD collection of Corbijn's music video output as part of the Director's Label series.

In 1994 Corbijn directed a short film about Captain Beefheart/Don Van Vliet for the BBC called Some Yoyo Stuff. He made his feature film debut with Control, a film about the life of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. It premiered to rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2007.[20][21] The film is based on Deborah Curtis' book Touching from a Distance about her late husband and the biography Torn Apart by Lindsay Reade (Tony Wilson's ex-wife) and Mick Middles. Although shown outside the Palme d'Or competition, Control was the big winner of the Director's Fortnight winning the CICAE Art & Essai prize for best film, the "Regards Jeunes" Prize award for best first or second directed feature film and the Europa Cinemas Label prize for best European film in the sidebar.[22]

2010 Corbijn returned as a director with the character-based thriller The American, starring George Clooney.

On 26 October 2011 Corbijn directed a webcast by Coldplay from the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain.[23]

His film A Most Wanted Man was released in 2014. The John Le Carré novel of the same name, which is loosely based on the true War on Terror story of Murat Kurnaz, was set in part in Hamburg, as parts of the movie were.[24]

In February 2014, he start filming his next project Life about James Dean and photographer Dennis Stock.[25]


Author William Gibson refers to a fictitious portrait by Corbijn of the character Hollis Henry in his 2007 novel Spook Country.[26] A Corbijn photograph has served as the author's portrait on many of Gibson's books, including Neuromancer.[27]

Corbijn is the subject of Josh Whiteman's 2009 documentary film Shadow Play – The making of Anton Corbijn.

In May 2011 Corbijn presented Mandela Landscape, an artwork consisting of Corbijn's portrait of Nelson Mandela stitched by Dutch textile artist Berend Strik. Both the original work and 80 signed art prints will be sold to fund the international edition of ZAM Magazine, an independent platform of African talent.[28]

On 19 December 2011, he was announced as being on the jury for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, scheduled to be held in February 2012.[29] At this occasion, the Berlinale Special screenings at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele will screen Anton Corbijn – Inside Out, an 80 min-documentary directed by Klaartje Quirijns.


Music videos

Year Song Artist Album
1983 Hockey Palais Schaumburg Single
1984 Beat Box Art of Noise Who's Afraid of the Art of Noise?
Dr. Mabuse Propaganda Single
Red Guitar David Sylvian Brilliant Trees
The Ink in the Well
Seven Seas Echo & the Bunnymen Ocean Rain
Pride (In the Name of Love) (third version) U2 The Unforgettable Fire
1985 Bring on the Dancing Horses Echo & the Bunnymen Single
1986 Quiet Eyes Golden Earring The Hole
A Question of Time Depeche Mode Black Celebration
1987 Bedbugs and Ballyhoo Echo & the Bunnymen Echo & the Bunnymen
Lips Like Sugar (first version)
The Game
Strangelove Depeche Mode Music for the Masses
Never Let Me Down Again
Behind the Wheel
Blueprint Rainbirds Single
1988 Welcome to Paradise Front 242 Front by Front
My Secret Place Joni Mitchell with Peter Gabriel Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm
Atmosphere Joy Division Single
1989 Faith and Healing Ian McCulloch Candleland
Sea of Time Rainbirds Call Me Easy, Say I'm Strong, Love Me My Way, It Ain't Wrong
White City of Light
Personal Jesus Depeche Mode Violator
1990 Killer Wolf Danzig Danzig II: Lucifuge
Enjoy the Silence (first version) Depeche Mode Violator
Policy of Truth
World in My Eyes
1991 May This Be Your Last Sorrow Banderas Single
Marie Herbert Grönemeyer Luxus
Two Faces Rainbirds Two Faces
Tragedy (For You) Front 242 Single
1992 Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll Garland Jeffreys Don't Call Me Buckwheat
Lover Lover Lover Ian McCulloch Mysterio
One (original version) U2 Achtung Baby
Straight To You Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Henry's Dream
Dirty Black Summer Danzig Danzig III: How the Gods Kill
Do I Have to Say the Words? Bryan Adams Waking Up the Neighbours
1993 I Feel You Depeche Mode Songs of Faith and Devotion
Walking in My Shoes
Condemnation (first version)
Heart-Shaped Box Nirvana In Utero
1994 Delia's Gone Johnny Cash American Recordings
Mockingbirds Grant Lee Buffalo Mighty Joe Moon
In Your Room Depeche Mode Songs of Faith and Devotion
Liar Rollins Band Weight
Love & Tears Naomi Campbell Baby Woman
1995 Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? Bryan Adams Don Juan DeMarco
My Friends (first version) Red Hot Chili Peppers One Hot Minute
1996 Hero of the Day Metallica Load
Mama Said
1997 Barrel of a Gun Depeche Mode Ultra
It's No Good
Please (first version) U2 Pop
1998 Bleibt Alles Anders Herbert Grönemeyer Bleibt alles anders
Goddess on a Hiway (second version) Mercury Rev Deserter's Songs
1999 Stars Roxette Have a Nice Day
Opus 40 (first version) Mercury Rev Deserter's Songs
2000 Chemical (first version) Joseph Arthur Come to Where I'm From
In The Sun
2001 Invalid Litter Dept. At the Drive-In Relationship of Command
Freelove (second version) Depeche Mode Exciter
2002 Mensch Herbert Grönemeyer Mensch
Electrical Storm U2 Single
2003 Re-Offender Travis 12 Memories
Zum Meer Herbert Grönemeyer Mensch
2005 All These Things That I've Done (second version) The Killers Hot Fuss
Talk Coldplay X&Y
Suffer Well Depeche Mode Playing the Angel
2007 En händig man Per Gessle En händig man
2008 Viva la Vida (second version) Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
2013 Should Be Higher Depeche Mode Delta Machine
Reflektor Arcade Fire Reflektor


Year Title Distributor
1993 Devotional Mute Records (UK), Sire Records (US)
1994 Some Yoyo Stuff BBC
2007 Control Momentum Pictures (UK), The Weinstein Company (US)
2009 Linear Universal Music Group, U2
2010 The American Focus Features
2014 A Most Wanted Man Roadside Attractions[30]
2014 Depeche Mode Live in Berlin Columbia Records
2015 Life



  1. "Q & A: Anton Corbijn" CNN, 3 October 2006. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  2. Anton in isolation: [ˈɑntɔn].
  3. Pitman, Joanna; "The silent partner" The Times, 14 February 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  4. Mackintosh, Hamish; "Talk Time: Anton Corbijn" The Guardian, 31 March 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  5. Zacharek, Stephanie; "Closer to Joy" Salon, 10 October 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  6. "Historische Kranten – actualiteiten uit het verleden". 15 July 1954. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  7. "Ds. A. Corbijn overleden – Kerknieuws – Kerk & Religie". 12 November 1917. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  8. "PROTESTANTSE KERK". Nederlands Dagblad. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  9. Corbijn, Maarten (2011). "In memoriam…" (PDF). Lopend Vuur. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  10. Corbijn, Maarten. "Corbino". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  11. "Historische Kranten – actualiteiten uit het verleden". 22 February 1985. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  12. "Abraham Corbijn van Willenswaard | 23258806". Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  13. "Stamboom van abraham corbijn van willenswaard – Website: (corbijn)vanwillenswaard ť". Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  14. "Historische Kranten – actualiteiten uit het verleden". 28 June 1911. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  15. "Historische Kranten – actualiteiten uit het verleden". 16 November 1928. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  16. "Historische Kranten – actualiteiten uit het verleden". 23 October 1937. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  17. "HERMAN BROOD | Anton Corbijn" (in Dutch). Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  18. See the booklet of Siouxsie's album Boomerang by The Creatures (Siouxsie's second band)
  19. Marlene Dumas, Feathered Stola (2000) Christie's Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale, 9 May 2006, New York.
  20. Sandhu, Sukhdev; "Film review: Ian Curtis biopic, Control" The Daily Telegraph, 5 October 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  21. Robb, Stephen; "Critics applaud Joy Division film" BBC (News), 17 May 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  22. Crerar, Simon; "Joy Division film wins five awards" The Times, 29 November 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  23. Coldplay Streaming Live, Anton Corbijn-Directed Performance from Spain on Wednesday Archived 1 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine. ABC News. Retrieved 20 December 2011
  24. Roxborough, Scott, "'The American' Helmer Anton Corbijn to Direct John Le Carré Adaptation 'A Most Wanted Man'", The Hollywood Reporter, 19 June 2011 5:33 AM. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  25. "Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan join Anton Corbijn's Life". Screendaily. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  26. Giese, Rachel; "Present tense" Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 October 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2009
  27. Gibson, William. Neuromancer. ISBN 0-441-56959-5.
  28. "Mandela Landscape - ZAM". Retrieved 2016-05-28.
  29. "Berlinale 2012: International Jury". 19 December 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  31. "Inside The American". GUP Magazine. November 12, 2010.
  32. Matthews, Katherine Oktober (October 12, 2011). "Inwards and Onwards". GUP Magazine.
  33. "Waits Corbijn The Book". Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  34. "Waits/Corbijn '77-'11". GUP Magazine. July 14, 2013.
  35. Matthews, Katherine Oktober (September 29, 2014). "Looking at A Most Wanted Man". GUP Magazine.

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