The Rolling Stones, Metallica and Bowie... in the same room?

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  • Influential Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn unites the world's greatest rock stars in a new exhibition

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN)It's possibly the first time that The Rolling Stones, Metallica and U2 have shared the stage with Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and Johnny Rotten. The stage being the Museum of Photography in the Dutch city of The Hague, that is, and if these music legends could climb down from the walls, they would form a line-up with no equivalent in any music festival we know of.

The exhibition, entitled "1-2-3-4", cues in a collection of extraordinary images by renowned Dutch photographer and film director Anton Corbijn, to mark his 60th birthday in May.
A complimentary exhibition, "Holland's Deep", adds photographs of artists, models and film-makers to the musical mix, and is located at the adjoining Gemeentemuseum.
    Corbijn's camera has been given access-all-areas in the company of many of music's greatest names during a photographic career spanning forty years.
    "Music is a very strong art form that can transcend your here-and-now to somewhere else with just a few chords," Corbijn offers by way of explaining his obsession with musicians.
    "That is incredibly powerful and it's a medium that asks to be visually represented. So sounds and vision go very well together."
    Corbijn's rock legends -- real and fake -- share the stage
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    Corbijn pursued a passion for music and photography as a passport to a more exciting world than the remote, rural locations of his childhood in Holland.
    His adventures in that world caught the attention of music magazines such as UK's influential NME, and produced a series of iconic images.
    In such cases, Corbijn feels discussing the story beyond the frame can dispel the magic: "One of the real powers of photography is that you can make it your own. You can look at something and make a story around it and that's all fine with me. And if you limit the viewer, to, you know basically to make the photograph as it is, sometimes that's a shame."

    The master in person

    To meet Anton Corbijn is to encounter an apparently shy, unassuming man whose camera is the prop that allowed him to enter a world within the spotlight.
    He sympathizes with young photographers trying to break into the business today.
    Corbijn and camera masters on the art of photography
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    "In professional photography it's quite a difficult time. There's a lot of photographers who find it hard to make a living and magazines find it normal not to pay people anymore because it's become a common good. It's hard to put a value on photography -- apart from some very famous photographers and these prices go in the other direction. So I feel for photographers who are starting out. It's quite difficult to find your way around all that and get yourself seen."
    To Corbijn, the proliferation of camera phones and image-sharing applications is a double-edged sword.
    "There's two sides to it. There's an incredible amount of visual imagery around all the time, which can be incredibly annoying because there's a lot of bullshit and people think that everything in their life is important now and needs to be registered -- on the other hand people find new ways to shoot things and there's an interest in photography like never before, so to quote the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, 'there's an advantage to the disadvantage!'"

    Corbijn the filmmaker

    Corbijn's close relationship with bands such as U2 and Depeche Mode led him to direct music videos and ultimately movies.
    His debut feature "Control" won widespread critical acclaim and his latest film "Life" is due to be released in September. "Life" features Robert Pattinson as a photographer determined to capture iconic images of the emerging movie star James Dean.
    "There's a massive difference between a photograph and a film. It's true that one photograph can be stronger than the whole film. With photography you can imagine everything around it and make it yours and with film you have the whole story and it's all there for you. So it's easier for a photograph to be more iconic than a film."
    Gazing into the faces of Keith Richards, David Bowie, Clint Eastwood, Bjork and Ai Wei Wei, captured in a moment and contemplated at length, it's hard to argue with that.
    If the old adage remains true that a picture is worth a thousand words, the 600 photographs on display will provide visitors to both exhibitions in Corbijn's home town with plenty to talk about.