Brian Griffin, the British photographer who shot the striking cover art for Depeche Mode’s first five albums, has died, according to BBC News and Griffin’s business partner Vaughn George. Griffin also shot the covers of Psychedelic Furs’ Mirror Moves, Echo & the Bunnymen’s Crocodiles, Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ Goodbye Cruel World and Spike, and Siouxsie and the Banshees Dazzle, as well as the Devo EP B Stiff, among others. Griffin was 75 years old.
Born in Birmingham in 1948, Griffin grew up in the English Midlands before studying photography at Manchester College of Art and Design. In the early 1980s, his work drew influence from Russian social realism and his own research into industrial labor conditions to help form Depeche Mode’s trademark Soviet aesthetic. The painterly photo of a woman attacking crops with a sickle while dressed as a Russian peasant, from the cover of 1982’s A Broken Frame, later appeared on the cover of Life magazine’s supplement of the best photographs of the 1980s. Griffin was named The Guardian’s photographer of the decade in 1989.
As well as his closer collaborators, Griffin took press shots of the likes of Kate Bush (in a series inspired by A Broken Frame), R.E.M., Talk Talk, and Iggy Pop, often goading subjects and using light machines of his own invention to capture dramatic, un-naturalistic images. In 2004, he shot a documentary on Paul McCartney, alongside extensive commercial and promotional work; a number of garlands, including the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society, followed.
In a statement shared with Pitchfork, Daniel Miller, the founder of Mute Records, said, “Working with Brian Griffin was an absolute joy and inspiration. He was a true friend and over the years, we had many deep conversations about photography and his encyclopaedic knowledge of music.”
Mute Records shared in an additional statement:
Here at Mute, we are very saddened by the loss of our dear friend Brian Griffin.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Mute’s aesthetic would not have developed the way it did without Brian. His incredible eye and incredible mind gave a visual pathway to the music that had meaning, scope and space.
There are not many great photographic album covers that are captured fully within the frame, but Brian did just that. He’d have the idea – often an outlandish one – which on paper seems impossible to capture, but then went out and did it. It’s the idea that’s difficult, and where the genius is; the execution of the idea was Brian nonchalantly being the master of his craft.
We were lucky enough to work with Brian creatively a number of times, notably on Depeche Mode, but it was his friendship we cherished more than anything and we will miss him.
If you are not familiar with his work, seek it out, allow your eyes to feast on these magnificent images for the first time.
If you are familiar with his work, remind yourself of how his photography, the art, the portraits, told you nothing whilst telling you everything, and what a wonderful entrance to music and personality he gave you.