Influential music photographer Brian Griffin, who shot Depeche Mode’s first five iconic album covers, has died.
Clash Magazine reports that Griffins, who is widely acknowledged as one of the most prominent music photographers of his generation, passed away on Monday at the age of 75.
A Broken Frame. One of the coolest color photographs I've ever seen, captured by the great Brian Griffin. pic.twitter.com/twZtVinSNJ
— Khai (@ThamKhaiMeng) January 20, 2022
Griffins, who was born in Birmingham, U.K., was working an industrial job in a factory when he took up photography as a hobby and joined a local camera club.
Griffin’s hobby eventually became his profession when he moved to London in 1972 and took a job as a corporate photographer for Management Today magazine.
Griffin’s move to London also came around the same time as punk music was emerging and he started shooting bands for independent record label Stiff Records.
His photography experience shooting businessmen translated perfectly to the bands of the time who also dressed in suits and ties, such as The Jam and Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
Over the following years, Griffin went on to shoot iconic portraits and album covers for music artists such as Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux, R.E.M., Echo & The Bunnymen, Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, Ringo Starr, Queen, and Peter Gabriel.
A Pioneer of ‘Capitalist Realism’ in Photography
However, it was Griffin’s artistic partnership with Depeche Mode that defined his career and shot him to fame. Griffin took the photographs for the band’s first five albums.
Griffin’s cover image for Depeche Mode’s 1982 album A Broken Frame, which depicted a woman working and cutting grain in a field, was inspired by the socialist photography of Soviet Russia. The image would later be named Photograph Of The Decade by Time in 1990.
Griffin’s photograph for A Broken Frame also appeared on the cover of Life’s 1990 edition of “World’s Best Photographs 1980–1990” — and helped earn him the title of “photographer of the decade” by The Guardian in 1989.
In an interview with the British Journal of Photography in 2016, Griffin described how his pioneering visual style, which has been since been referred to as “Capitalist Realism,” was influenced his father’s death by lung cancer caused by years of working in an industry factory.
In his photographs, Griffin drew upon the backgrounds of his subjects — many of whom were workers and tradesmen — and learned about their poor working conditions. In his portraits, which sometimes resemble paintings, these subjects are elevated to a different, almost royal, status through their poses.
Griffin left photography behind in the 1990s to start a production company. However, he returned to the craft in the early 2000s to shoot a documentary for Sir Paul McCartney in 2004.