‘Himmelstrasse’ by Brian Griffin Documents Railway Tracks in Poland Leading to the Nazi Death Camps

Today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27 2019, seems like a good time to publish a link to the great British photographer Brian Griffin’s book ‘Himmelstrasse’, published by Browns Editions in a limited edition of 500 in 2015. 

‘Himmelstrasse’ by Brian Griffin.

… In May 1942, Sobibor became fully operational and began mass gassing operations. Himmelstrasse (Heaven Street) was a cynical Nazi joke used to describe the final journey to the gas chambers.

Brian Griffin has documented the railway tracks in Poland that transported approximately three million prisoners from around Europe to the Nazi extermination camps during WWII. From the railway leading to Hitler’s Eastern Front military headquarters at the Wolf’s Lair, to the State Rail System leading to the camps of Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Stutthof and Treblinka. Griffin’s haunting landscapes are an emotional and personal photographic journey that represents the relentless brutality and inhumanity of the Holocaust.

This publication was launched in September 2015 at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Followed by a launch at the NY Art Book Fair 2015….


Café Royal Books, Publishing Gems of the Golden Age of British Documentary Photography

When I and my then partner had control of the book-buying budget for an Australian  university art school where we studied and then taught some years ago, I kept a particular eye out for what I termed “project books”, that is, photo books dealing with a specific topic, theme or project over a short period of time.

I theorized that project books might be good learning tools for our students in the absence of photography exhibitions of any sort in that city’s galleries, a way of gaining insight into how photographers think, see and work.

Few such books actually turned up and most photo books that passed over our desks then could best be described as retrospective artist monographs collecting the work of a photographer over the course of their career or at least a large part of it.

By the time our contracts at the university were over and the old guard took back their power with a vengeance we had a remarkable collection of books of photography, books on photographers and on related topics as well as filmmaking, but there was a hole that I wished we could have filled.

Photo book publishing has changed since and I have been out of the book-buying loop since moving back to Sydney where far fewer photography books and magazines make it to our shores compared to when I was living in London and reviewing and buying books for myself,  the magazine I conceived and cofounded, and the top-rank creative advertising agency where I worked for a time.

I was happy, then, to recently make the acquaintance of a reasonably new photo book publisher in the form of Café Royal Books aka CRB via some Facebook posts by Ella Murtha on the work of her mother, the late Tish Murtha.

Tish was one of Magnum photographer David Hurn’s first students in the famous School of Documentary Photography founded in 1973 and located in Newport, Wales.

The School trained many documentary photographers and photojournalists and employed a number of great photographers as teachers.

The School was recently moved from Newport to the University of South Wales in Cardiff under the course directorship of Paul Reas and David Hurn continues to work on personal projects after leaving in 1987.

Craig Atkinson, publisher of Café Royal Books, concentrates on the work of British documentary photographers, much of which has been unjustly forgotten in the years since the golden age of documentary photography in the 1970s and 1980s, and names with which I had been familiar during Creative Camera magazine’s heyday have been turning up in CRB’s list.

Besides Tish Murtha there are David Hurn, Ron McCormick who was also a teacher at the same School, John Claridge, Jo Spence, Brian Griffin, Chris Killip, Homer Sykes, Bill Jay, Patrick Ward and a number of less familiar but no less worthy names.

CRB prices its books at £6.00 each and also sells them on a subscription basis, averaging one book a week and they are produced in very limited editions.

One priceless record of some the finest photography of our times for the cost of less than two cups of coffee is surely well worth the investment.

If you have the means, I strongly suggest subscribing.


Paris Photo: The Artists Talks by the Eyes – Brian GRIFFIN – Saturday 11th 1.30 PM

The Artists Talks by the Eyes – Brian GRIFFIN – Saturday 11th 1.30 PM from Paris Photo on Vimeo.

One of the four alternative covers of ‘POP’, a book of iconic music photographs from the 1970s and 1980s by the great British photographer and director, Brian Griffin.


Please Support Brian Griffin’s Kickstarter Campaign to Publish ‘POP’, the Chronicle of His Achievements in Music Photography

Brian Griffin, one of the most creative, innovative and successful photographers and moviemakers I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of publishing his latest book, POP, a chronicle and collection of his remarkable achievements in album cover photography.

Brian Griffin created the cover photographs of many of the most significant albums of the Punk, Post-Punk and New Romantic movements of the 1970s and 1980s. He photographed this masterpiece for the cover of Depeche Mode's second album, 'A Broken Frame'.
Brian Griffin created the cover photographs of many of the most significant albums of the Punk, Post-Punk and New Romantic movements of the 1970s and 1980s. He photographed this masterpiece for the cover of Depeche Mode’s second album, ‘A Broken Frame’.

POP will be a must-have amongst photography books, revealing the scope of the work and vision of this Black Country outsider who made off to the London Dockland’s area of Rotherhithe to set up studio and revolutionize corporate photography, popular music photography, advertising photography and the art of photographic portraiture.

Brian Griffin’s visionary, minimalist, dense-with-meaning photography appeared as a shining light in the gloom of the corporate world of 1970s Britain. One of the greatest magazine art directors ever, Roland Shenk, spotted Brian Griffin’s maverick talent and commissioned him to contribute to the pages of Management Today, one of several brilliantly designed magazines in the Haymarket Press stable along with advertising industry publication Campaign

I came across Management Today in the magazine archives of a university art school I was deeply frustrated by, and found a kindred spirit in Brian Griffin, an outsider in the world in which he was working and revolutionizing. His work in the corporate sector, then the music world and then in advertising stood out for his singular vision and rare ability to create something extraordinary out of almost nothing at all.

My last visit to Brian Griffin’s Rotherhithe studio far too many years ago was at the point where he was about to give up photography for directing television commercials, celebrating his transition from one creative field to the other with a big bang of a photography exhibition.

Since those days, I am pleased to say, Brian has become a photographer once again and has enjoyed a string of exhibitions of photographs old and new at festivals and galleries all over the northern hemisphere.

Alas, no gallery or photo festival director in this part of the world has seen fit to invite him to show here, to our very great loss. Pledge to Brian Griffin’s Kickstarter campaign for POP, page through the book when you receive it, and you, too, will wonder why.

Then, perhaps, you will also wonder whether Mr Griffin’s next major book publishing project will be a compendium of his equally revolutionary images in the fields of advertising, corporate, magazine and portrait photography.


Header Image:

Portrait of music producer George Martin by Brian Griffin.