U2 & i (book)

This is a review of the book U2 & i by Anton Corbijn.

Anton Corbijn is one of those guys that you can’t help hearing about if you read about U2. He seems to have been with the band forever, and he has, or at least since 1982. Kind of the official photographer of the band, his iconic images are ones you’ve definitely seen, like the cover of The Joshua Tree, and many others. This book, U2 & i, shows many of his pictures of U2, mostly black and white but some color, covering 1982-2004.

As always, a book like this can be both revealing and boring. I already reviewed one picture book of U2 history, and didn’t like it much because the vast majority of pictures were well-known, with only a few that I hadn’t seen before. This book though has both the unprecedented access that Corbijn had, and a large archive of pictures that have not been generally available. This means that not only was I seeing a lot of stuff that I hadn’t seen before, but I was also reading Corbijn’s notes about each picture, which again provided an intimate view of the band. I would guess I have seen maybe a third of the pictures in the book, and that may be a generous estimate since some of them I thought I’d seen but realized I may have seen different shots from that shoot.

Many of the photos are Bono and his family, it seems that he allowed more access than the rest of the band did. That’s not to say they didn’t, because there are many private photos of them too, but when Corbijn’s going on vacation with Bono and his family, he’s going to get pics of them that he’s not of the others.

Was surprised to see so many pictures of Bono smoking, that’s something not generally published, at least not recently. Old images of the band have shown each of them smoking at times, even Adam on stage playing with a cigarette in his mouth. I guess you don’t see that kind of picture these days, because the anti-smoking lobby would be up in arms, but it does tell you just how relaxed and open the band was around this particular photographer.

I must admit to disliking Corbijn’s handwriting, which is used for all the captions in the book. While it makes for yet another point of intimacy, as he is writing directly to the reader, there were quite a few times where I had to stop and try and interpret just what words he had written.

Several essays at the front, and an interview between Bono and Corbijn, only add to the quality of the book. This is a really outstanding book. I’ve reviewed maybe three or four U2 books so far, and I probably have another ten to do. I haven’t rated any of those yet, but I can say that I doubt that any of them will rate as highly as this one. It doesn’t have the detail that some of the books have, but then again they say a picture says a thousand words, and that’s really true here. If I were to recommend one U2 book to buy, I don’t think you could go much wrong with choosing this one.

My rating for U2 & i: 8 / 10