Brian Griffin

Annual Report 1974-2013

A non-conventional portrait photographer; that works only on commission, mainly for manufacturing industry or rock record covers.
Staging his portraits, making screen stars of the anonymous staff who work in production, sales, organisation, research, secretarial work… right up to management level.
He remains true to his working class origins which he glorifies in his work. The liberties he takes with the white collar classes are astonishing.

Liam, steel fixer St. Pancras, Londra 2005

Natalie Gore, chainmaker, the Solid Swivel Company LTD. Cradley, Inghilterra 2010 Courtesy of Birmingham Central Library

Foundry warehouse worker Lye, Great Britain 2010

Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister 10 Downing Street, London 1986

Big Bang Broadgate, London 1986

Born in 1948 in Birmingham.
Lives and works in London.

Annual Report – 1974/2013

I was born in 1948 in Birmingham but lived until I was 21 in Lye, which is a town 10 miles southwest of Birmingham in an industrial area known as the Black Country. Upon leaving school at the age of 16 like all the people around I started working in a factory. At the age of 21 as a trainee pipework engineering estimator working for the British Steel Corporation, I escaped from the tedium of the office to the School of Photography at Manchester College of Art. In November 1972 I was offered a job on the respected business magazine Management Today. This I didn't find that appealing because the work was photographing the type of people that I had been working with prior to art college. This was my start, where I worked for 5 months and after that 20 years as a freelance. The magazines designer Roland Schenk inspired me greatly and helped me to formulate a style in my photography. At the advent of post–punk I started taking photographs of bands for press and publicity, also producing a lot of photographs for record sleeves. Some of the artists and especially the album covers became very famous with some featuring in the top 100 album sleeves of all time as selected by Rolling Stone magazine.
From 1979 the country began to change rapidly after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. She pronounced business to be "sexy" and I had gathered a reputation for making business people look interesting and exciting. Partly because of this Hewlett Packard gave me their annual reports to shoot, which won all sorts of awards. This was a time when annual reports were really interesting. In the mid 1980s the construction of Broadgate began, and a large area of the City of London was demolished to make way for this new development. My job entailed for 2 years lighting that part of the City of London for big photographic spectaculars, inventing the photographic concept piece "The Big Tie" and supplying this work in the form of brochures for the developers, Royal Family and Prime Minister. This was the time I visited Margaret Thatcher at number 10 Downing Street for a private portrait sitting. 1987 was the year of my first exhibition at Les Rencontres d'Arles. It produced a special moment for me by being given the Freedom of the City of Arles. Later in the year my exhibition Work opened at the Edinburgh Festival and went on to tour the UK and Europe for the next 2 years, culminating in a one-man show at the National Portrait Gallery London in 1989. The same year The Guardian newspaper awarded me "The Photographer of the Decade" and Life magazine placed my photograph "A Broken Frame" on their cover of the "Greatest Photographs of the Eighties". Throughout the 1990s I retired from photography and took up directing advertising film, pop videos and short films. Returning to photography in 2001 I was commissioned to take portraits of the people of Birmingham in order for the city to become "The City of Culture". My lighting after spending 12 years in film had become even more sophisticated and started to display itself in the group portraits of my next big projects. The first was the building of High Speed 1 and the renovation of St. Pancras Station, producing a book and an exhibition for the Royal Opening in 2007. "The Road To 2012" a commission by the National Portrait Gallery about the London Olympics quickly followed. In 2009 it was the 40th anniversary of les Rencontres d'Arles and I was fortunate to be represented by two large exhibitions which generated once more interest for mywork, resulting in a commission by the College des Bernardins with an exhibition at Paris Photo 2010, followed in 2011 with a project to photograph the dockers and containers at Fos-Sur-Mer for Marseille—Provence 2013 European Capital City of Culture. With the town of my birth, Birmingham building a New Central Library, I have been photographing the people that will enable this building to function plus the personalities that have made it happen. This will be a book and an exhibition launched in September 2013. Finally for the moment, Format an international festival of photography in the City of Derby will be displaying a set of my still lives, along with portraits of the important people of the city in the Museum and Art Gallery from March until June 2013.

Brian Griffin

Exhibition partly organized with the support of the Birmingham Central Library