The world in black and white – Anton Corbijn in Berlin Amerika House.

The black and white photography is an art not easily achievable. Not every picture you take is ready to lose its colours and stand naked in front of you. You can easily kill the depth of a landscape or completely change the look of your model. From the other side, by trading greens and blues with grayscale, you might be able to utter something hidden. Anton Corbijn is a master of the black and white art. He captures a moment which never ends; or unveils the soul of a person.

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The film photography (analogue) element of shooting photographs is fundamental for Corbijs’s art. He is a perfect example of a self-thought and very talented artist, choosing his own path. The fact that he is taking the risk of abandoning digital convenience makes him unique in the world of comfort we all chose. Going out and taking pictures with available light only, waiting patiently for results which can be seen only after developing the films, is an anachronistic bravery. All the scratches and uneven surfaces give his work a unique authenticity.

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His pictures are not perfect. And we are lucky they are not. Sometimes the subject is completely outside the plane of focus, faded, uneven.  Like in the picture of Shined O’Connor, the focus is held on the second plan and her face is melting away. The imperfection is Corbijn’s mark – a signature of his soul.

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His photographs are not moments frozen in time. This is not his aim. They supposed to tell you a story.  The hidden secret of his photography is in its documentary effect, in his ability of extending time beyond the frame of the picture. Even though his pictures are portraits of famous people, they have more in common with street photography than with anything else.  When you look at the pictures, you feel challenged to complete a story Corbijn is telling through his lens.

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In his late thirties, he was already admired by artists and musicians he photographed. His originality, style and thoughts, presented him as a true master, however, he felt there is still a room for development. His works were intended to be published by music magazines or were snatched by musicians to make original album covers. Suddenly the opportunity to explore the world of exhibition presented itself. Corbijn decided to make a selection from his thousands of music photographs, printed them in a large format and have them framed. He published them in a stylish book called Famouz. The title was taken from the name of his company – Ze Famouz, which was inspired by the fact that the people of London, where he lived at the time, thought he was a German, because of his accent.

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In the 1990s, his approach changed. The cult of money, fame and the increasing role of paparazzi gave him a brand new idea. Corbijn believed that the images of famous people in gossip magazines, are killing the mystery. They bring every aspect of human life into the public gaze. The pictures taken by paparazzi are moments stolen from private life, often taken in shy and unfavourable circumstances. That the Paparazzi are stripping away the illusion of perfection and turning fame in infamy. In a way, Corbijn’s idea was connected with this approach, but he never wanted to become like them. He wanted his pictures to recreate lost mystery when his objects were a part of the process. He invented “fake paparazzi photos” by using features typical for paparazzi photos. He took a picture of a celebrity in a specific pose, from an unusual angle or in unusual circumstances. Corbijn diverted the process of paparazzi that destroyed the mystery of fame, by creating a personal secrecy in his pictures.

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Corbijn’s work, which everyone can hang on the wall, gave him a head start. It allowed to re-create his vison by adding very much needed perspective to the pictures that were now being looked at from the distance. As one would look at Monet or Salvador Dali. He created an art which can be reprinted and repeated many times, never losing its deepness and uniqueness.  

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Practicalities:

The Amerika Haus is on Hardenbergstraße 22 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. There is a lot of possibilities how to get there, depending on where are you coming from. Try to get to Berlin Zoologischer Garten (a choice of S-Banh, U-Banh, Regional Express and buses) and you can easily walk from there.

Information about exhibitions, tickets, opening hours and much more can be found here.

Amerika Haus

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