My Mid-1990s Article about the Late Great Fashion Photographer Peter Lindbergh for Australia’s ‘not only Black+White’ Magazine.

Peter Lindbergh has always been damn near impossible to get in touch with, not because he wants to be alone but more for the fact that he is so much in demand for editorial and advertising shoots, and just recently for awards presentations and the openings of his own photography shows, that he is booked up months ahead.

It is not the money either. I tried to offer Lindbergh the first ad in a lucrative and creatively open campaign for a Swiss watch manufacturer earlier this year, and he could not fit it in until well after the first picture was due to run. So the problem remains: How do you portray the supreme fashion portraitist without actually getting to him in the flesh?

The clue lies in his own quotes and photographs and films, and comments made by some of the people who know him best. I hope to cut through this thicket to get to some essence of the man himself, and why he does what he does.

First for the visual evidence. In summer of 1995 Lindbergh took on the 1996 Pirelli calendar shoot, in a move away from the kind of high gloss beautifully executed production that Richard Avedon made of it the year before. There could not be a greater contrast between Avedon’s colour sheet film studio style with the lighting placed exactly just so, the wind machine velocity precisely set, and the props and wispy garments chosen and placed on the supermodel with painful accuracy. As an expression of the Avedon beauty aesthetic it was spot on.

This year, it is Lindbergh’s 35mm high speed monochrome on location, as if it were a movie shoot. Lindbergh himself commented about this change in direction. “It was a deliberate choice,” he says, “because, when you work in colour what you are looking for is a sort of first-degree reality, whereas in black-and-white you can elaborate on that reality. You go further. I also wanted to create a relaxed work atmosphere for myself and my crew, with objects scattered about informally – a fan here, some forgotten chairs there. Only with black-and-white can one convey that kind of authenticity.”

The setting in the Mojave Desert contains all the furniture of an apparent feature film shoot, with ultra-high output HMI lights, movie cameras on tracking dollies, director’s chair, and black studio backdrop casually popping up in the photographs. Some of Lindbergh’s Harpers Bazaar fashion shoots had featured a similar movie set look. Was this artistic pretension or wishful thinking on the photographer’s part?

“It’s not accidental,” says Lindbergh. “I wanted to create a working atmosphere. All the objects used in these pictures have been used to make them. They were real tools. Portraying women in a real technical setting has always fascinated me. I like that backstage feeling. It’s not pretentious: it adds a technical aspect which contrasts with the femininity of the photographs.”

It is also evidence of his other career, as a director. Lindbergh made a ten minute promo short at the same time as the stills shoot, hardly necessary as Pirelli calendars are strictly not for sale. Their 40,000 odd print run is always spoken for well before they appear, by the executives, celebrities and journalists on the mailing list. The Pirelli calendar is a media event, in the same way as Lindbergh’s debut documentary on supermodels, Models: The Film was the much anticipated fashion event of 1992.

Models is a walk through several disjointed days in the lives of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, Linda Evangelista, and Tatiana Patitz as they are photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Harper’s Bazaar. This 45 minute monochrome film is as much a celebration of the supermodel phenomenon as it is documentation of one aspect of these women’s lives.

Stylistically it is incredibly close to Lindbergh’s photography, with a kernel of romantic nostalgia for the great days of classical pre-Technicolor film-making. Campbell plays at being a helium-voiced Josephine Baker, trying to add another hyphen to her job description, Evangelista sits down on a Brooklyn street corner, marcelled black hair à la the height of the Thirties, and haltingly plays the piano accordion like a waif from an Italian Neo-Realist movie.

Then the girls all hang with the home boys at Coney Island after a shoot on the beach, all giggles and camping it up and ogling the sights. The film shows them as real human beings despite the untouchable aura that supermodeldom carries, so that without the makeup and the hair and the clothes these five could just be an especially good-looking gang of sorority sisters on the lam from college.

Lindbergh is in love with their personalities, but as to the photographer himself, Modelsdoes not tell us much more. He is an ever-present absence throughout, except when Evangelista complains at the end that “You’re all in my light,… Pete!”

To shed some light on the photographer, let’s go back to his origins. His biography tells us he was “born on the Polish border of war-torn eastern Germany, in 1944. Peter Lindbergh spent his childhood in the West German town of Duisburg, where his family moved in with his uncle after World War II left them with nothing.”

“As a boy,” it continues, “Lindbergh spent all his free time outdoors. In Duisburg his uncle worked as a sheep farmer with a herd of 3,000, which he kept on a rented parcel of land near the Rhine river.” Ah ha, a clue! Is this where his love of the landscape comes from? It goes on. “On one side of the river was green grass and trees. On the other side was heavy industry, populated with factories, where the boats came up to load.” Some of Lindbergh’s most striking fashion images of the mid-1980s, for Comme de Garçons, were set in decayed factory buildings.

The 1993 Ilford calendar that doubled as a Lindbergh retrospective contains this explanation. “In 1984 I was very much into machine and factory pictures. One reason was the great German tradition of black-and-white expressionism in films directed by Lang, Pabst and others,” he says. “The other was that I was reading everything about Rodchenko, Vertov, Tatlin and Mayakovsky and the outstanding creative energy at the beginning of the Russian Revolution.”

So despite Lindbergh always being of the moment in the models he portrays, he is a traditionalist when it comes to his inspirations. Besides the aforementioned Russian Contructivist photographers, Lindbergh’s photography bears resemblances to that of August Sander, the pre-war cataloguer of all the German character types and, as Karl Lagerfeld points out in his preface to 10 Women, the recently rediscovered fashion portraits of Rudolf Koppitz.

There is an essential Germanness in Lindbergh’s photography, and his character, that as with all Germans who leave their native country has become heightened in opposition. They are a family-oriented people, the Germans, with a hard edge to their nature and no fear of the human body with all its imperfections, naked or otherwise.

Lindbergh left his family behind while young, at 15, when he moved to Luzern in Switzerland to work as a window-dresser. After that he went to Berlin to take on odd jobs, studied drawing, dropped out and departed for Arles, hitchhiked, returned to Düsseldorf, enrolled in art school, and became a conceptual artist.

He became a photographer when he was 27, apprenticed to advertising photographer Hans Lux, then worked in that area until events took a turn. “I got into fashion photography by accident,” Lindbergh elaborates, “I did advertising photography for five years. Then one day a magazine editor [in fact the legendary Willi Fleckhaus of the equally legendary Twen] called me and said that my advertising didn’t look like advertising. He gave me a fashion story. I did it, then Sternsaw it and gave me fourteen pages.”

Then it was on to Marie Claire, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar when British Vogue’s Liz Tilberis took the helm and bought in Lindbergh and Demarchelier for a small fortune, starting a bidding war that benefited even those who stayed with Condé Nast, like Steven Meisel.

In an interview published prior to his signing to Bazaar in 1992 and well before 10 Women was simply a thought and nor more than that, Lindbergh was sceptical about venues other than the magazine page, like gallery shows. “I always said no. It’s a lot of work to do, and to do a book,” he pointed out then. “At the same time it’s a look back, and in the past few years I don’t feel like looking back.”

What retrospective shows like the one now touring Japan, Germany and America well into 1997 give the photographer is the chance to put distance between them and a part of their life, study it with detachment, tidy up the past, put it away and then go on to the next stage. It’s a cathartic act.

Late 1997 will see the release of another and larger book from the same publisher, of still lives, landscapes, portraits and fashion photographs. This second and more important book launch should be the opportunity to shed a brighter light on Lindbergh the man and the artist.

© Copyright Karin Gottschalk 1996, 2017. All rights reserved.

An Instagram post from photographer Amanda de Cadenet

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Masters of Photography Online Courses Launches with Joel Meyerowitz, One of the Greatest Living Fine Art Photographers Working in Colour

I was checking some references for my latest article on colour photography great Joel Meyerowitz when I came across the image featured in this article’s header above. Yes it is true, Joel Meyerowitz is teaching an online course on photography for Masters of Photography and I am sure it will be worth every single cent of its US$170 course fee. 

Walk with Joel in all his 34 lessons as he takes you on this truly inspirational photographic journey and shows you how to stay alive to the meanings and possibilities of the world in front of you. With Joel as your guide, you will learn how to find your creative voice and identity and apply it to your own photographic subjects. Join in and share your course photographs with Joel’s student community and get them critiqued. You will also get your own course certificate from Joel too.

For over 55 years, universally acclaimed, award-winning photographer, Joel Meyerowitz, has been one of the world’s greatest image-makers. Although Meyerowitz is a street photographer in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, he transformed the medium with his pioneering use of color. As an early advocate, he became instrumental in changing the attitude toward color photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance. Meyerowitz’s work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world, and he has published more than 25 photography books. He was the only photographer to gain unrestricted access to Ground Zero after 9/11, which produced a body of work that led Meyerowitz to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale for Architecture in 2002.

Meyerowitz is a Guggenheim fellow, a recipient of both the NEA and NEH awards, an inductee to the Leica Hall of Fame, an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society and a recipient of their prestigious Centenary Medal. He has taught at Princeton University in New Jersey and at The Cooper Union in New York.

It is also pleasing to see that Albert Watson is teaching one of two coming courses, with the third being taught by Steve McCurry. I hope some great female photographers will present future courses on the principle of “if she can see it, she can be it”.

Links:

AnOther: How Peter Lindbergh Changed Fashion Photography Forever

http://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/10432/how-peter-lindbergh-changed-fashion-photography-forever

“In 2002 Peter Lindbergh was tasked with shooting his second Pirelli Calendar, aptly named Peter Lindbergh’s Hollywood, which was the first of its kind to feature actresses rather than the usual ultra airbrushed and scantily clad models. In it, the chosen women made Lindbergh’s images come alive with a sense of their own narrative, in way that Pirelli had never seen before…”

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Mastin Labs: 5 Books Every Photographer Should Read

https://www.mastinlabs.com/blog/5-books-every-photographer-read

“There are so many books for photographers, but I’ve boiled my long reading list down to a few books that have had the greatest influence on my journey in photography. The following is a list of the top 5 books that I believe every photographer should read….”

Commentary

This top 5 list of photobooks shared by Kirk Mastin of Mastin Labs contains five of the best and most inspiring ever published, with four of them featuring the work of some of the most inspirational photographers of the century, Alex Webb, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Win Wenders, all highly recommended.

Top Fashion Photographers Markus&Koala Say Fujifilm GFX 50S is “Game Changer, Best Camera Ever Built”

One of the first things I would advise camera makers do with radical new products is get them into the hands of famous photographers or photographers who work with famous people – credibility by association works. That has now happened with fashion and portrait photographer duo Markus&Koala picking up a Fujifilm GFX 50S for an advertising shoot and loudly singing the camera’s praises. 

Markus&Koala have shared a BTS video of the RealRyder advertising shoot at RealRyder’s YouTube.com channel, and said this to the folks at FujiRumors in their recent article Fujifilm GF Lenses “Superlative” Sharpness Results :: It Feels Like You Can Step Into Each Image :: Clearly the New ‘State Of the Art’ for Fashion

I would say that for me, the GFX is clearly the new ‘state of the art’ camera system (for high-end advertising, fashion and celebrity portraiture type work). I would go as far as saying it is the best camera ever built, and I would expect it to become a ‘game changer’ in the industry. Here are some samples from the RealRyder campaign that you are welcome to share.

Markus Klinko, famous for photographing David Bowie over the years and half of the Markus&Koala team “is an award-winning, international fashion/celebrity photographer and director, who has worked with many of today’s most iconic stars of film, music, and fashion.

Markus&Koala have kindly shared some photographs from the campaign shoot at their dropbox account, three of which are below.

Thank you to FujiRumors for bringing this development to my attention and for granting permission to re-publish this story in my own way.

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Image Credits:

Header image concept and production by Carmel D. Morris.