Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Four decades of creativity and friendship

On a cloudy Basildon day in 1981 a tall man came up to four lads and asked “can I take a photograph of you?”. The quartet, already gaining recognition as the electronic music act Depeche Mode, consisted of Vince Clarke, Andrew Fletcher, David Gahan, and Martin Gore.

Clarke, the oldest member of the band, started to question the man’s intentions. “Do you think we are some kind of puppets or fools?” Screaming tora! tora! tora! like a Japanese soldier, he flung his effects pedal towards the man. Luckily it just missed because Clarke had slipped and couldn’t get the balance right!

Gahan, the lead singer and keen to have pictures taken of himself, said “this ain’t nodisco Vince and you shouldn’t have done that, sooner or later you’ll regret it, here comes somebody who I think could be good for us”. Then he asked the man “what’s your name?”.

“My name is Anton Corbijn and I’m a photographer from the Netherlands. I’ve come here to help you conquer the world. Maybe even give you a new life. But only if you are willing to work hard.”

Gore, the band’s creative genius, wasn’t convinced. “Why did you arrive on that ice machine and do you even have any photographic experience? Don’t lie to me.”

“Yes, of course”, said Corbijn. “About five years ago I thought church had shown me the meaning of love. Gradually it made no sense to subordinate to an authority, I felt like a satellite and realized that art is love, in itself. For me the camera became a pipeline connecting my ideas with the subjects I take pictures of. But these are stories of old and any second now the weather conditions will be ideal for photography in the great outdoors!, with the sun and the rainfall not being a factor.”

“Are you from Oberkorn (it’s a small town)?,” asked Fletcher, the skillful intermediator.

“No, I believe that’s in Luxembourg. I’m from Strijen (also quite a small town). Or as I used to call it, my secret garden. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The weather could change to the worse without a two minute warning, so let’s get started. Naturally, only if you want guys, I treat everyone with respect because people are people.”

Gahan had made up his mind. “There’s nothing to fear lads, let’s give the man a chance, besides it’s not like we have something to do. Fletcher concurred, “yes I’m in, boys say go!

Gore seemed to mind wander. “Are you dreaming of me again?,” his longtime pal Fletcher asked. “No, I’m thinking I need this photoshoot to (set me free) remotivate me. We all need it. When it comes to change everything counts as an opportunity.”

Clarke felt the remorse and shame. He thought to himself “I sometimes wish I was dead, maybe I should just leave in silence,” instead he apologized to the photographer. “I’m sorry for flinging my big muff at you, and I hope the incident doesn’t stay in your memory”. Gahan couldn’t help but to say, “told you so”. Corbijn accepted the apology and the photo session finally started.

Gore wanted the shoot to evolve around the theme of master and servant. Corbijn had other ideas and explained that the world wasn’t ready for such topics, “you should definitely write a song about that, but wait a couple of years, the landscape is changing”.

Clarke and Fletcher weren’t used to being in front of the camera. Corbijn had to shout! to them “I can’t see you there, please stop hiding behind that monument”.

Gahan was eager to be in every single picture, “I just can’t get enough of this,” he confessed to the former church man. Corbijn thought to himself “now, this is fun, I like it even more than a party”.

And then… an artistic relationship and amiability was formed.

Is the above story really what happened? Not even close. In fact, the whole thing is fabricated and full of blasphemous rumours. Initially Corbijn wasn’t even particularly keen on working with Depeche Mode since he didn’t like their music. “…Depeche struck me at the time as a teeny-bop kind of band… and to work for them, didn’t really enter into my train of thoughts”, he said in an interview from 2006. But it is true that this creative bond took its first stumbling steps back then, and since around 1986 Anton Corbijn has crafted all of the band’s photography, most of the music videos, album artwork, and live set designs.

That somewhat reluctant photo session in Basildon in 1981, led to what became one the strongest collaborations in the realm of music and visuals.

Do you want the official illustrated history between Depeche Mode and Anton Corbijn?


Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Get your hardcover copy of the 2021 original edition of “Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn 81-18” from Amazon (subject to availability).

Get your hardcover copy of the 2021 original edition of “Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn 81-18” from eBay (subject to availability)

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  • Author: Anton Corbijn and Reuel Golden
  • Published: March 2021
  • Pages: 512
  • Dimensions: 26 x 35.5 cm / 10.25 x 14 inches
  • Publisher: ‎Taschen America
  • ISBN: 9783836586702

Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Get your hardcover copy of the 2024 pocket-size edition of “Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn” updated right up to “Memento Mori”, from Amazon (subject to availability).

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  • Author: Anton Corbijn and Reuel Golden
  • Published: February 2024
  • Pages: 192
  • Dimensions: 14.5 x 20 cm / 5.71 x 7.87 inches
  • Publisher: ‎Taschen GmbH
  • ISBN: 9783836597999

Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn

Get your hardcover copy of the 2020 collector’s limited edition of “Depeche Mode by Anton Corbijn 81-18”, numbered 201 – 1986 and signed by Anton Corbijn and Depeche Mode, from eBay (subject to availability).

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  • Author: Anton Corbijn and Reuel Golden
  • Published: November 2020
  • Pages: 512
  • Dimensions: 31.5 x 44 cm / 12.4 x 17.3 inches
  • Publisher: ‎Taschen America
  • ISBN: 978383657197