Few images are burned into the rock psyche as deeply as that of U2’s Bono, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton and The Edge in all their mullet-ed, moody passion at Joshua Tree in 1987. The man responsible was Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, who’s been instrumental in crafting the band’s image since 1982. Opening Sunday and running for one week only, Corbijn is exhibiting 20-plus year’s worth of U2 photos, some from his recently published book “U2&i,” at the Stellan Holm Gallery in Manhattan. It coincides with the band’s concerts in New York, and Bono and mates will be on hand to celebrate the opening Sunday night.
While Corbijn’s notoriously quirky vision has produced some of the most recognizable moments in U2’s history — including the seminal cross-dressing video for “One” — the lensman and band haven’t always seen eye to eye. Corbijn admitted his early images for 1983’s “War” release almost didn’t make the cut. “Bono felt it wasn’t right,” he said. “And that is how this relationship works. It has grown organically but never without putting up fights, all with the aim to create the best possible work in the end.”
Such an extended collaboration between a photographer and one band is rare. “I have never seen the equivalent of this set up over such a long period of time with anybody else,” said Corbijn. Perhaps the next stage in the friendship will have Corbijn shooting an ad campaign for Bono and his wife Ali Hewson’s fashion line, Edun. “Not sure [if I’d do it], as it is ‘nude’ spelled backwards,” the photographer joked. “I am very Protestant, you know.”