An Illustrated History of Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Last year, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Anton Cor­bi­jn released a new book, MOOD/MODE, show­cas­ing work out­side the bound­aries of the rock pho­tog­ra­phy world in which he’d made his name. But no mat­ter whom he’s pho­tograph­ing, Cor­bi­jn brings a high seri­ous­ness to the endeav­or that he explains as part of his reli­gious upbring­ing in the book’s intro­duc­tion. “My Protes­tant back­ground always marked & influ­enced my por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy. Mankind. Human­i­ty. Empa­thy,” he writes, were the ideals he absorbed as a child. Such beliefs “kept me from doing work that lacked a deep­er pur­pose.”

Cor­bi­jn grew up in a small vil­lage out­side Rot­ter­dam, Jean-Jacques Naudet writes. “His father and many oth­er male mem­bers of his fam­i­ly were pas­tors. Life was strict and sim­ple, on Sun­day every­body dressed in black. Reli­gion was omnipresent.”

He moved away to the city and began tak­ing pho­tos of the music scene at 17. But the look and feel of his ear­ly life nev­er left him. It was this aes­thet­ic that attract­ed Depeche Mode, one of Corbijn’s longest-run­ning musi­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors and a band who were no strangers to brood­ing in black and mak­ing reli­gious ref­er­ences and appeals to human­i­ty.

“We were seen as just a pop band,” says Depeche Mode’s Mar­tin Gore. “We thought that Anton had a cer­tain seri­ous­ness, a cer­tain grav­i­ty to his work, that would help us get away from that.” Cor­bi­jn first helped them refine their look in mid-80s and “was able to give the Depeche Mode sound, that we were begin­ning to cre­ate, a visu­al iden­ti­ty,” says singer Dave Gahan. That iden­ti­ty is now the sub­ject of a new book from Taschen that col­lects “over 500 pho­tographs from Anton Corbijn’s per­son­al archives,” notes the arts pub­lish­er, “some nev­er seen before, as well as stage set designs, sketch­es, album cov­ers, and per­son­al obser­va­tions” about the “world’s biggest cult band.”

Cor­bi­jn became such an inte­gral part of Depeche Mode’s suc­cess, the band con­sid­ered him “a ver­i­ta­ble unseen mem­ber of the group,” writes, medi­at­ing their image not only through pho­tog­ra­phy but also live pro­jec­tions and, of course, music videos. They were able to achieve “a kind of cult sta­tus,” says Gore in the mini-doc­u­men­tary above, which also has an inter­view with Cor­bi­jn. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er walks us through his his­to­ry with the leg­endary synth pio­neers (whom he did not like at first), begin­ning with the first image he shot of them in 1981, when founder Vince Clarke was still in the band.

Clarke leans behind Gahan’s left shoul­der, the full band framed by a stone arch. To Gahan’s right is an enor­mous cru­ci­fix. It set a tone for the work­ing rela­tion­ship to come. “There has to be an ele­ment of the per­son in the pho­to­graph,” says Cor­bi­jn of his por­trai­ture, “but there also has to be an ele­ment of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er.” It took anoth­er few years after that first shoot, he tells The Guardian, but he real­ized “how good their music and my visu­als actu­al­ly went togeth­er.… They had soul.” You can order a copy of the new book, Depeche Mode by Anton Cor­bi­jn from Taschen here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

A Visu­al His­to­ry of The Rolling Stones Doc­u­ment­ed in a Beau­ti­ful, 450-Page Pho­to Book by Taschen

Depeche Mode Before They Were Actu­al­ly Depeche Mode: Stream Their Ear­ly Demo Record­ings from 1980

Lost Depeche Mode Doc­u­men­tary Is Now Online: Watch Our Hob­by is Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode Releas­es a Goose­bump-Induc­ing Cov­er of David Bowie’s “Heroes”


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