See Anton Corbijn’s Photographs of Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Alexander McQueen, and Others

Richard Prince.

On November 5, the Stellan Holm gallery will unveil “Inwards and Outwards,” a series of recent portraits of musicians, artists, and other topline talents taken by Anton Corbijn. Though Dutch-born Corbijn has 2007’s Joy Division biopic Control, this year’s The American, more than 75 influential music videos, and numerous album covers to his credit, his initial fame and enduring passion remains photography. For “Inwards and Outwards,” he shot on old-fashioned film on a handheld camera with available light and without assistants, and his intimate one-on-one encounters define their iconographic subjects — Tom Waits, Kate Moss, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Alexander McQueen, and others — in new and sometimes startlingly unfamiliar ways. Vulture recently sat down with Corbijn so that he could tell us the stories behind this ten-image exclusive preview of the show. We quickly discovered that the photographer takes the old saw about every picture telling a story quite seriously. “I don’t narrate my photography,” Corbijn cautioned. “I want to transcend how the picture’s made. If you limit a picture to the reality of how it got made, you limit what people can get out of the picture. People can make their own story. It’s the opposite of movies, in a way.”

Corbijn: “This is Alexander McQueen in his studio. I liked the picture from the start, but after his death it seemed to be more poignant. I think it’s one of these places in a fashion studio where they put a lot of inspiration for a collection on the wall. He was very hands-on. He was a tailor, wasn’t he? He was kind of a fashion terrorist.”
Corbijn: “I’m doing a book with Tom at the moment. It should come out in March. It’s a very big book because we took our first picture in 1977 and continue to work with each other. Holland in the seventies was very progressive in its recognition of great music from the seventies, actually. Ry Cooder, Captian Beefheart, Tom Waits, and Randy Newman, I think, all had their first gold records in Holland. A lot of photographers say he’s a dream model. I love Tom and our shoots are very simple. It’s just him and me always going out to take some pictures. This is an image I particularly like because with Tom you never know whether you get the person or the person he’s playing. It makes him such wonderful subject matter.”
Corbijn: “That came out of a shoot I did for his album Devils and Dust. I was a fan very early on, but I never managed to get a great picture of him until 2005. As a person to photograph he’s up there in a way with Tom Waits, I think. Two great American icons. They’re so mature, in a way. They’ve so become the people they want to be. It’s like the Dutch queen; she was by herself when I photographed her. The English Queen had her whole staff. I think that’s a sign of greatness. I spent some time with him in these pictures and it’s great to see somebody who’s their own boss.”
Corbijn: “This is a very old picture of Kate from ‘93. All the rest of the series is from 2002 on. It’s quite a simple picture and uses the fact that she has such a beautiful face. We go back a little bit. We used to share a house in London, and I also used her very early on for a Levi’s campaign. I also did a Johnny Cash video with her for a song called “Delia’s Gone.” Yeah, so I‘m very fond of Kate and I think she’s the main model for me in the last ten years. There’s a lot of symmetry there. You don’t know if it’s a party or if there’s something sexual; it’s ambiguous in that sense. The mask? I’m not telling you. Let’s say she didn’t have it on when she answered the door.”
Corbijn: “I find Richard’s work is very inspiring as a pop artist and the ‘Nurses’ series is one of my favorite series that he’s done. There’s a beautiful relation between him and the painting, which is hard to get. With Richter it’s the same, actually. Him and the painting become a single image.”
Corbijn: “The image is playful in the way he winds up at the top of the stairs. It’s kind of a stairway to heaven. These towers? They’re massive and he put them up one at a time. They lean a little but are stable enough to walk around in. This area is on the poster for the movie Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a Sophie Fiennes documentary on Kiefer. She followed him for a long time. I shot on a day that she was shooting but when she was shooting his work, I was shooting him.”
Corbijn: “Would you believe this was Central Park? I found the place. This comes closest to being a painting I think of any of these pictures. It’s the same with Kiefer. It reduces the person that you photograph to being part of a much larger environment which is unusual in photographs of people that are well-known. The last time he was naked in a photograph was in the early seventies, I think. It was a very famous picture of him where he was posed naked. He hasn’t done that since — his torso, yes, all the time, but never completely naked. I thought it was interesting to do that again. It came out of an assignment for Rolling Stone. They never ran the picture. How you cannot run this picture I don’t know, but, well … “
Corbijn: “To me this is a beauty-and-the-beast kind of image. The butterfly symbolizes something fragile. He has a very soft element in him, although he comes over very hard and rough. It takes it away from seeing Tricky as a gangster. I think he’s a very interesting artist. We first met one evening in London a long time ago. He was D.J.-ing and I showed movies that I liked. I did a picture of him for a magazine and then I did [a shoot for] an album called Blowback. I don’t know what happened, but this is from a shoot that didn’t work out for him. I was always keen on this one.”
Corbijn: “Photography is a great excuse to meet people, so that’s how I sometimes use it. This image stems from an interest in the world of painters and always wanting to learn more about it. If anything, I’m a frustrated painter. My grandfather was a painter and my father was a minister of religion. My grandfather died when I was very young and my father only took me once in my whole life to a museum. He was not against it, it just wasn’t part of his interest. [The museum exhibition] was Rembrandt, because Rembrandt depicts biblical scenes and it was the only way my father could relate to painting. I grew up on an island, and I didn’t have any knowledge of culture when I was very young.”
Corbijn: “What I like about this image is the strength. He’s an older man, but there’s so much strength and power and determination in this image. I think it’s wonderful that Lucian, at this age, is still adamant to create work. He doesn’t take breaks, he doesn’t go on holiday, he works on two pieces a day. That’s inspiring.”
See Anton Corbijn’s Photographs of Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Alexander McQueen, and Others