Asking Anton Corbijn for a photo
In April 2014 I received word from my publisher Joost Nijsen at Uitgeverij Podium that Rainbow publishers would republish my novel. I decided to ask Anton Corbijn – photographer of musicality first, and famous people second – if we could use one of his photos for the cover. Below you find the letter I wrote him. (Or you can go to Medium, for a more readable version.)
Dear mister Corbijn,
To save our intermediaries the trouble of translating this letter I thought it best to write in English. I have a suggestion and a request. Mister Corbijn, I am a time traveller. I cannot go into the details – one can never be too careful with these matters – but using a home made carrot pie with lime-mascarpone glazing, Moroccan hasj and Boney M on repeat, I am capable of traveling back in time.
I shouldn’t tell you this, because I know you will ask me to go to Louis XIV and ask him to make better chairs. And no, I won’t go to “viskooperij Brakkedam” in ‘t Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe to check out what it looked like before the storm of ’53 either. (I’m just as curious as you are, but– no. Just no.)
But what I am more than happy to do, however, is travel back in time to 2011 and write & publish a novel titled “everything smells like chocolate” about a mildly talented nineteen year old musician trying to break through in the Dutch music industry the year his father dies.
I would do this as a tribute to the musicality of your photography. Particularly as a tribute to one photo: the one you took of Ian Curtis where he’s resting on a speaker, I assume backstage, rubbing his eyes. That poor man, I think when I see that photo. There is a melancholy to it, and a dark musicality that fit perfectly with what I write about.
So, with your approval I will travel back in time and write that novel. People will read it and they will weep and laugh. They will wonder if it’s just a sweet little novel about music, death and dreams, or a very clever metaphor for the changing geopolitical dimensions at the beginning of the twentyfirst century. (Most people will think it’s just the first. Which is fine by me.) But, sir, do you know what would be even cooler? If we could use that picture for the cover of said novel!
With the help of that picture – the one that capsulates so much of the main character I would write about – I will make the novel into a bestseller! You and me and George Clooney could swim in an Italian lake. I would ask my girlfriend to bake us cookies. Perhaps you’d like a gin & tonic – I make a mean one – and then we would all be very happy and wealthy and many other things.
That’s option A. It sounds like a difficult plan, I know.
So I have a backup plan, which I’ve christened, well, option B. Option B would be to travel back in time, write the novel, have someone make a beautiful typographic bookcover, publish it, entertain people with it, go to work as a copywriter and have the book republished in the summer of 2014 with that photo of Ian Curtis on the cover.
(We could still go swimming with George, of course. Or reminisce with Sean Penn about Christopher Hitchens. Debate Matthew McConaughey about the merits of his Oscar speech.)
I won’t offend you with the amount of money the publisher has budgeted for a coverphoto. (You and Bono could rent an alpaca for an afternoon, but that’s about it.) They also want to have a confirmation in a week from now. (way too hasty. We haven’t even wined and dined.) But I decided to write you anyway. I like longshots. That’s why I wrote the book in the first place. In the future, I mean.
In summary. It would be the greatest thing to have Ian Curtis back on the shelves of thousands of teenagerooms again– after all those years – perhaps without them even knowing. It is the right photo for the right book– or so I think. But I’ll gladly leave that to you and your people to decide. Mister Corbijn, I am an avid fan of your work and am amazed and intimidated by how much you’ve accomplished. Can we please use your photo on my bookcover?
Graciously, Anton Corbijn made this photo of Peter Gabriel available, a photo that fits the content of the book even better.
Evidently, my gratitude is of epic proportions.
Design made by studio Ron van Roon