Brian Griffin took photos of world’s biggest rock stars but is not a music fan turned photographer: He started out with corporate photos. We interviewed him about his beginnings, his work habits and his plans.
Do you come from a background conductive to arts? I noticed you worked in the steel industry and only after a few years you went on to study photography. How was the transition, was it hard to make a living?
I come from a heavy industrialised area of England by the name of ‘The Black Country’. My home was amongst the factories and my parents were factory workers.
It was a hard beginning to life as a young photographer but I was blessed with talent but little money. A book was published about my early life by Dewi Lewis Publishing and it has the title ‘The Black Kingdom’. This week a DVD is being released also featuring my early life titled ‘The Surreal Lives Of Brian Griffin’ directed by Michael Prince and can be purchased at http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/
What are your biggest career highlights?
My life has been filled by so many highlights, but I have had to work very hard to achieve them.
You shot covers for a lot of music albums. How important is music for you? I understand you were not one of those photographers who were primarily music fans?
Listening to music has always been part of my life but producing album covers was just a job and only a part of my photographic output.
You photographed Iggy Pop, Siouxsie, Depeche Mode, REM, Elvis Costello and many others… which projects or meetings were especially memorable?
My favourite photographs were for the Depeche Mode albums ‘A Broken Frame’ and ‘Construction Time Again’.
Physically working with Iggy is something I will never forget.
Your album shots for Depeche Mode are now iconic, i am expecially thinking the A Broken Frame cover-but shooting a woman in a field for an album cover was not that usual at the time. Did you get any weird reactions to this, or maybe to your other works?
Those images especially the cover have become generally regarded as amongst the best colour photographs in the history of photography. Some of my work at the time was not so highly regarded, but has grown in stature since. Such as Depeche Mode’s album ‘Speak And Spell’ and The Teardrop Explodes ‘Kilamanjaro’.
I assume you were influenced by paintings and other arts… what are your favourite (visual or other) artists?
Generalising I regard myself as an authority on European painitng from 1900 to 1939.
Also it is notable you started as a corporate photographer and after many years you worked for big companies like Reykjavik Energy. Is there something special you like about work for corporations, apart from maybe the people being less chaotic than singers?
I love the way people in offices look. It stems from my love of the novelist Franz Kafka.
What equipment is your favourite, do you still use analog (the Hasselblads?), or you fully transitioned to digital?
I still shoot analogue with my Olympus OM2, Mamita 7 and Hasselblad’s. With regards to digital I use Phase One and Cannon.
What are some rules or basics you tend to follow in your work?
Never crop an image.
Would you like to give any advice to creative professionals who maybe want to get into photography, film or other such professions?
A wonderful but far from easy life.
What are your plans for the coming months?
Work on evermore projects, have exhibitions and publish books.