The celebrated photographer Anton Corbijn has announced that he is ‘bowing out’ of professional photography. From now on, photography will be just a hobby. This is according to an article I read on the Economist blog in November 2015.
The news coincides with a retrospective exhibition at the C/O gallery in Berlin. Anton Corbijn is famous for his portraits of rock musicians and actors. He has a raw visual style emphasising graininess and high contrast. All the photographs in the exhibition were taken on film and printed in the darkrom. Most are in black and white.
He has been active in photography since the mid 70s and went on to photograph U2, Joy Division and many others. I once met and shook hands with him in Manchester at the press conference for his film about Joy Division: ‘Control’.
He is one of the leading photographers of our era but now he has decided – apparently like many other less well known photographers – to give up photography as a profession.
But shouldn’t we take his words with a pinch of salt, like David Bowie’s announcement in 1973 that he would no longer be performing live?
I find it difficult to believe that a photographer as famous as Anton Corbijn can simply resign. I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of him or his photography.
But there is an important issue which is brought up in the Economist article. Photography today is very different from the days of film. That expression makes them sound like they are a lost era but they lasted for 180 years from the 1820s until we reached the ‘film to digital tipping point’ , by my reckoning around the year 2000.
Previously Anton Corbijn would spend days photogaphing a band. Nowadays the shoot is limited to a few hours. Photography is no longer a slow process, resulting in a small number of high value images, rather the opposite, or so it seems.
How does it feel to have grown up with film and then to witness the gradual takeover of digital? In my opinion although photography has become more convenient, it has lost its quality of exclusivity. Maybe that’s both a bad thing and a good thing.
Anton Corbijn’s exhibition is on at C/O gallery on the Hardenbergstraße Berlin, from 7 Nov 2015 to 31 Jan 2016.