'I don't know how many sessions I have done with them'
Tens of millions of U2 fans are intimately familiar with his work, even if they don't know his name. Anton Corbijn is responsible for all the most iconic images of U2 from an Irish castle in 1984 to a French airport in 2001 - and all points in between.
Since being sent to New Orleans to photograph the band for the UK music paper NME in 1982, Anton has shot U2 in dozens of locations and at hundreds of shows.
'I don't know how many sessions I have done with them, ' he says. 'Maybe a hundred. I have no idea how many shots I have taken.' That no modern rock photographer and band have a comparable relationship is abundantly clear with the publication of 'U2 & I', a weighty photographic record of 400 shots which documents two decades in the life of U2.
'I started thinking about doing the book in 1995,' he recalls. 'But I was deterred by the amount of work it would involve. At the time I had only been working with them for 13 years.'
If the oldest images dateback to 1982 and New Orleans, the most recent feature the band in Lisbon in 2004 and provided the cover image for 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb'. On the eve of publication, U2.Com spoke to Anton about the book, the band and his 'special relationship'.
U2.Com : Is this more than yet another book about U2 ?
AC: This is a book about three things. One thing is that you see people getting older, people coming of age. The second is that you see people changing in front of the lens: you see the attitude of U2 changing -like in the difference between The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby - which Bono calls the journey from innocence to experience.
And thirdly there is the development of the photographer, changes in my work over 25 years. All these things dawned on me as I was making this book, that it was twenty two years of my life. That is why I kept postponing it!
U2.Com: What's so special in the relationship between you and the band ?
AC: There is a love for each other and also a wanting for the other party to do better. U2 have pushed me into doing things I was reluctant to do and they have been open to my mistakes, open to my development. So, for example, the development from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby came about because Bono knew what I was doing with Depeche Mode at the time - all my colour stuff and he was really supportive of that. And with my mistakes, he was always looking at it as an experience to learn from and in a sense we both grew up.
U2.Com: Do you have a similar relationship with any other subject ?
AC: Every subject is unique, but when I worked with Depeche Mode, although for a much shorter period, it was far more intense - not only taking photographs, but designing record sleeves, logos, t-shirts, videos. I even designed the stage show.
REM I have also worked with for a long time, and the German artist Herbert Grönemeyer and Tom Waits also. But with all of these it is different to my relationship with U2, that is only comparable to the relationship I had with the Dutch musician Herman Brood in the 70's and 80's. I was lucky enough to make sure that Bono and Edge met up with him - he died three years ago - and you will see in the back of my book there is also a thank you to him. Working with him was the blueprint for working with U2, I felt how good it was to work with the same people for a long time.
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U2&i is published world-wide under the imprint of Munich-based publishers Schirmer/Mosel on February 11th. More here: http://www.u2-corbijn.com/