There’s something about Anton Corbijn’s portraiture that makes you stare. Maybe it’s the slow shutter speed, which allows the Dutch heavyweight to capture moments and gestures many other photographers would miss (hence the signature granular quality). Or maybe it’s because his modus operandi is to make people wonder, even when they’re looking at a familiar A-list face (which they almost always are). “People want to know too much,” he says. “I want people to discover it themselves, and not to give away all the stories about the photographs.” So while there’s an intimacy to Corbijn’s portraiture—often most pronounced when his subjects are clothed—don’t always believe what you see.
Some of the below photos, from Corbijn’s eponymous exhibition on view at his studio in The Hague through February 22, are straightforward. The show’s online iteration, found at the acclaimed auctioneer and dealer Simon de Pury’s de-pury.com, proves that some are not. Turns out, David Bowie was looking so forlorn in that loincloth because he was in character for The Elephant Man. And Damien Hirst wasn’t exactly collaborating with Corbijn when he transformed into a version of his infamous diamond skull (via makeup, not Photoshop): “I took the subject and made him the subject of his work.” See those photographs and more of the rarely seen images featured in “Anton Corbijn,” below.