Brian Griffin obituary


Brian Griffin, who has died aged 75, was some of the unique and influential British photographers of his technology. His pictures of Kate Bush, Donald Sutherland, Iggy Pop and Damien Hirst, and his album covers for Echo and the Bunnymen and Depeche Mode, are a number of the most well-known photos of the Eighties.

For the quilt of Depeche Mode’s 1982 LP, A Damaged Body, Griffin transposed Soviet social realism to a cornfield off the M11 in East Anglia, and the end result was named by Life journal as one of many best pictures of the last decade. His virtuosity noticed him declared photographer of the last decade by the Guardian in 1989.

His work, which has been exhibited globally, is within the everlasting collections of the Nationwide Portrait Gallery, the V&A, the Arts Council and the Birmingham Museum and Artwork Gallery.

Griffin’s success capturing the shiny worlds of cash and hairspray was rooted in one thing darker. He was cast within the Black Nation, the economic heartland of the West Midlands, and the affect of the factories, and the cruel gentle from the furnaces, suffused his early images. He had a relentless work ethic and would do something to achieve a world far faraway from that of his upbringing.

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For the quilt of Depeche Mode’s 1982 LP, A Damaged Body, Griffin transposed Soviet social realism to a cornfield off the M11 in East Anglia. {Photograph}: Brian Griffin

He was born in Birmingham, the one little one of Edith (nee Moore) and James Griffin, who had been each manufacturing facility staff. The household lived in a two-up, two-down in Lye, the place each avenue had a manufacturing facility. Younger Brian felt that “the entire world gave the impression to be partly fabricated from steel. Every part you touched appeared to be iron and metal.” After passing the eleven-plus examination he went to Halesowen technical faculty, then went to work on the age of 16.

In 1965 he was making conveyors for readymix concrete vegetation when the manufacturing facility foreman recommended he be part of Hagley digital camera membership, the place he picked up a digital camera for the primary time. He then acquired a job at British Metal and was working as a nuclear pipework engineering estimator in 1969 when all the pieces modified. Devastated by the top of a love affair, he determined to go away his previous life behind.

Griffin’s solely technique of escape was images, so he put a few of his digital camera membership pictures right into a Boots picture album and utilized to artwork schools. He was accepted into Manchester Artwork Faculty on the age of 21, the place he studied with Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows.

Within the school library he devoured books on artwork, and after graduating and transferring to London, he spent weeks on the Nationwide Movie theatre immersing himself in German and French cinema. Impressed, he started to search for work.

In 1972 he went to see the artwork director of Administration Right this moment journal. Griffin’s expertise was plain to see, and he was instantly put to work. He shot a shadowy monochromatic picture of rush hour on London Bridge from the again of a cab, calling it his Metropolis picture, after Fritz Lang’s expressionist masterpiece. Previous to this, Griffin had doubted his means, however now he knew that he may make it as a photographer, he unleashed his artistry.

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Kate Bush in 1983. {Photograph}: Brian Griffin

By his pictures for the journal, Griffin launched surrealism to the boardroom. His industrial background meant that he clicked with the businessmen who had been his topics, and the captains of trade performed ball. He wittily subverted the company energy of the lads he photographed by introducing discordant juxtapositions, constructing rigidity. He wound intrigue all through his work, stopping the viewer of their tracks, making them take time over his pictures, and his work started to be recognised.

Bold, he needed to broaden his repertoire and earn extra money. He understood that the model he had honed within the enterprise world would translate into the pop sphere, the place post-punk bands had been eschewing bondage trousers in favour of being suited and booted. He went to Stiff Data and photographed Elvis Costello and the Sights and Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

Recognition adopted and commissions flooded in. He labored for Esquire, Rolling Stone, the Face, Time Out, the Sunday Instances and the Observer, in promoting for British Airways, BMW and Levi Denims, and photographed Brian Could in a sequence for Sony Walkman in 1980.

That 12 months he moved to Rotherhithe, a working-class space of south London on the banks of the Thames. He liked the place, recognised its folks and was to remain there all his life. He arrange a studio from the place he continued to push the boundaries of the standard. Utilizing his background in engineering, allied to his innate creativity, he constructed lighting machines and used knicker elastic and ping-pong balls to create startling particular results in an analogue age.

Some experiments led to glad accidents: his extremely regarded 1984 picture of Siouxsie Sioux, meant as a double publicity, was actually a triple: “It was unsuitable, however so proper,” he stated.

Within the days earlier than social media, apart from magazines, the primary showcase for a photographer’s work was on partitions, be they in galleries or city centres. Griffin’s first solo London exhibition was at Distinction Gallery in 1981, and the posters of his work for bands similar to Spandau Ballet and Ultravox had been plastered throughout the land. His household lastly noticed his work and had been proud: they’d all the time needed extra for Brian than manufacturing facility life.

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Brian Griffin in Cradley Heath, 2015. He was cast within the Black Nation, the economic heartland of the West Midlands. {Photograph}: Diensen Pamben/Newsteam

In addition to portraiture, he produced quite a few documentary initiatives. In 1986 he photographed building staff on the Broadgate growth within the Metropolis of London. On the time he was nonetheless reeling from the demise of his father from lung most cancers, attributable to a life inhaling cast-iron mud. The mission allowed Griffin to pay homage to his father and to all working folks: he monumentalised the lads “like knights mendacity in state in a cathedral with their swords”.

In 1989 he left nonetheless images to make tv commercials, music movies and quick movies, however returned a decade later. In 2003 he produced a mission to assist Birmingham’s bid to turn into the European Metropolis of Tradition. He labored selling the 2012 London Olympics and in 2015 his photo-essay, Himmelstrasse, movingly documented the railway tracks in Poland that transported folks to Nazi demise camps. He continued to work up till the top of his life, with new initiatives nonetheless within the pipeline.

He had greater than 20 monographs revealed in his lifetime and received quite a few awards. In 2013 the Royal Photographic Society awarded him their Centenary Medal, and the next 12 months he obtained an honorary doctorate from Birmingham Metropolis College for his lifetime contribution to his residence metropolis.

Griffin’s 1980 marriage to the photographer Frances Newman resulted in divorce. Their daughter, Layla, died in 2020; he’s survived by their son, Danz, and three grandchildren.


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