Interview With Brian Griffin – Circa 1978

Brian Griffin is one of England’s most influential and creative photographers. Born in Birmingham in 1948, Brian’s work draws from influences as diverse as Renaissance masters, through to Symbolism and Surrealism, with ‘film noir’ lighting often used in conjunction.

In 1989, The Guardian hailed him as ‘the photographer of the decade’; while in 2005 he was described by the British Journal of Photography as ‘the most unpredictable and influential British portrait photographer of the last decades’.

Interview With Brian Griffin – Circa 1978
Photo © Brian Griffin

Now The Society Club in Soho, London is exhibiting work from Brian’s highly sought after out-of-print book, © Brian Griffin 1978. Opening on his birthday on April 13th, the exhibition will run until June 8th and features 18 limited edition darkroom prints.

I spoke with Brian about his upcoming exhibition.

How did the original book, Circa 1978 come about in the first place?

Circa 1978 was the first self-published photography book – it is cheaply printed with just two staples holding it together! I was working as an editorial photographer at the time and met the designer, Barney Bubbles when I was shooting the album cover for Parkarilla by Graham Parker and the Rumour. (We shot on the South Bank, with Graham looking like a gorilla!) Stiff Records were using Barney as their designer, and I had loved the minimal thumbnail line drawings he was doing for Johnny Moped in the NME. It was a total coincidence that we met.

I wanted to do a book and Barney was happy to collaborate with me. I explained what each photo meant to me and Barney illustrated each one with a line drawing around it. There was no shading or colouring in – just a plain line drawing with each shot.

Interview With Brian Griffin – Circa 1978
Photo © Brian Griffin

Tell me about some of the shots included in the book

The book was a collection of my editorial work, with a little bit of rock and roll thrown in! It includes my shot of a ballroom dancer, shot in 1972, which got me my job with Management Today. (Brian joined the staff of Management Today in 1972 and worked extensively with Art Director Roland Schenck, allowing him to fully hone his craft.) There are photographs taken for Management Today, Accountancy Age, Campaign and Car magazine. There’s a shot of a very young Simon Callow and work for album covers for the artists Devo and The Pop Group.

Interview With Brian Griffin – Circa 1978
Photo © Brian Griffin

And what did you shoot the images on?

Most of the images were shot on my Olympus OM1 and Leicas. So most of the photographs were on 35mm. I used Ilford film – I loved Ilford and of course there was no digital scanning in those days. Everything was supplied from prints.

You talk about the ‘stillness’ of these shots from the 70s, although I think this is a common thread in your work. How did this style come about?

Most of my influence was from film and all of this work was shot within five years of my leaving art school. I was aware that I had a very different way of looking at things and that my own style was ‘not of the time’. I shot on black & white Ilford film and colour and, if you look at my images from that time, I do think there’s a remarkable stillness to them.

Interview With Brian Griffin – Circa 1978
Photo © Brian Griffin

How did the exhibition come about?

My assistant, Ravi Chandarana, organised the exhibition. He got in touch with The Society Club, who specialise in books, and showed them a shot from the book. They loved the shot and organised with Ravi to meet me. And from there, we put together the exhibition.

We will be selling the book and posters at the exhibition, as well as limited edition silver gelatine prints (printed by Mike Crawford at Lighthouse Darkroom). It’s taken almost 40 years for people to be interested in the book. I’m delighted to be exhibiting at The Society Club and am looking forward to the exhibition.

Contact The Society Club @ 020 7437 1433. You can of course view Brian’s amazing work at his website.

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