Anton Corbijn, Film and a Session with Sunstreets

With Anton Corbijn leaving professional photography behind, I consider the benefits of shooting on film during a recent session with Sunstreets

At the end of last month news circulated that Dutch artist, Anton Corbijn, would no longer pursue photography professionally, reserving it only as a hobby. Corbijn carved out a 40 year career shooting iconic images for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bjork, Morrissey, U2, Nirvana, Nick Cave and Depeche Mode. Shooting almost exclusively on black and white film, he took a slow approach with his sitters as is the way with analogue. Shoots could be long, in the case of The Joshua Tree album cover in 1979 it took three days. Today, the desired turnaround by labels and press is much faster, something arguably caused by the advent of digital photography. Corbijn recognises that “people are busy” and that “they have lives” and so with the diminishing call for photographers shooting film, he has retired.

There is a quality to work like Corbijn’s that cannot be replicated. There are post-production methods that can go some way to emulate film and grain. However, it also needs to be considered that the ‘slow’ approach that film demands gives room for a relationship to unfold between the subject and the photographer during the sitting. This is something that I love about the process. The thinking, the talking and the consideration given to the composition and exposure. It enhances me as a photographer and fine tunes my skills to a point where it is reflected in my digital work (although I am shooting less of it where film is a better fit). It also helps me connect more with clients unlike with digital where you can work faster shooting countless frames. The ratio of images that I personally like is much higher when I shoot film, just another reason why I am excited to work with clients in this way.

In November I shot with a singer-songwriter by the moniker ‘Sunstreets‘ who’s music is inspired by the likes of U2, Bruce Springsteen and Stereophonics. Lisa Vibert, by her real name, hails from Lymington in The New Forest. After reading about Anton Corbijn’s retirement from professional photography and thinking about Sunstreets inspirations I knew I wanted to shoot on film with her. We used Ilford HP5 shooting with a Rolleiflex 2.8D and Nikon FM. Like Corbijn, I shot at speeds of around 1/30th or 1/60th of a second sometimes giving a slight sense of movement in the frame. Lisa will be using the images as the basis of her promotional imagery for print and online publication. You can find out more about Sunstreets on Facebook and Twitter.