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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New Book by the Great Joel Meyerowitz, ‘Where I find Myself’, Coming Soon from Publisher Laurance King

The arts often cross-fertilize each other and inspiration is to be gained from anywhere and everywhere in the same way as fertile subjects for photography and moviemaking are often to be found just around the corner. 

Photograph by Joel Meyerowitz, from his website.

The colour and monochrome photographs of Joel Meyerowitz have been major influences on my own photography and moviemaking since seeing some of his colour photographs in a tiny little book decades ago, so it is wonderful to learn that Where I Find Myself, Joel Meyerowitz’s first major retrospective in book form, is due out soon to accompany a major retrospective exhibition in Berlin.

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Exhibition Opening, Shan Turner-Carroll’s ‘Relics’ at Grace Cossington-Smith Gallery, 11th November 2017

An exhibition by photographer and multi-disciplinary artist Shan Turner-Carroll was launched at the Grace Cossington-Smith Gallery located in the Abbotsleigh private girls school grounds on Saturday, 11th November 2017. 

We attended the launch event and made the photographs in this gallery. 

The cluster of Sydney North Shore suburbs where we live in Ku-ring-gai and nearby was once known for the visual artists who lived and worked here – Grace Cossington-Smith, Jimmy Bancks, Lionel Lindsay, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan – and the architects, actors, filmmakers, musicians and writers who lived, grew up, went to school, built, worked or rehearsed here – Adam Garcia, Carmel D. MorrisCate Shortland, Dorothea MackellarEleanor Cullis-Hill, Errol Flynn, Glenn MurcuttHarry SeidlerHoward Joseland, Hugh Jackman, KamahlMel Gibson, Midnight Oil, Mi-Sex, Penelope SeidlerPeter Garrett, Richard Clapton, William Hardy Wilson – but one would be hard-pressed to name creative people of that stature who live here now, other than an ever-enduring Kamahl.

We enjoyed meeting and conversing with other creative people at the launch and look forward to attending and documenting many more.

Tech Notes

Franke & Heidecke’s Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras permitted viewing one’s subjects in a number of different ways and angles.
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GX8 Micro Four Thirds/Super 16 hybrid stills/video camera is unique in its tilting viewfinder that mimics the effect of twin lens reflex analog cameras’ waist level viewfinders.

These photographs were made with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Micro Four Thirds camera with a Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f1.7 Aspheric lens.

I chose the GX8 specially for its unique tilting electronic viewfinder (EVF) that allows me to shoot looking downwards like waist level viewfinders on some of my favourite analog cameras, or at a range of other angles.

Using a GX8 in this way permits placing the camera lower than eye level and makes it easier for subjects to ignore me.

The 25mm f/1.7 came with the GX8 as part of a promotion and it is a very sharp and well optically-corrected lens that focusses by wire as opposed to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 lens that offers repeatable manual focus via its manual clutch focussing mechanism.

Another Panasonic lens to consider for this approach is the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 prime that also focusses by wire.

I processed the raw files in Alien Skin Exposure X3 using the Kodak Panasonic-X and Platinum split-toning presets, with minimal further image adjustments.

I chose to emulate the look of platinum printing as I was reminded, on entering the gallery, of the many exhibitions I have seen overseas where the photographs were printed in the platinum printing process.

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Image Credits

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

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  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro LensB&H
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  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II Aspheric LensB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric LensB&H
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Rest in Peace, Photographer Khadija Saye and Everyone Else Killed in the Grenfell Tower Fire on June 14, 2017

The deaths of photographer Khadija Saye, her mother and all the others lost in the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington aka Ladbroke Grove, London, have affected us very deeply here at Untitled. They were killed by local and national government policies punishing those who are not wealthy or who are of the “wrong” background, social class or age. 

Being born somehow wrong and how that intimately affects your life and career is something we both know well. Each of us has lived in and loved West and Central London, their people, their cultures, their places, their diversity, their creativity and their opportunities. The happy memories of our friends and experiences there have stayed with us ever since, the high points of our lives.

Ms Saye was on the verge of a major career breakthrough, having been selected to show her work in the Diaspora Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. She was the student of a student of a student of mine from when I was a university art school photography teacher.

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Help Sasha Waters Freyer Tell the Story of the Greatest Street Photographer Ever, Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand, quintessential New York street photographer, is the grandfather of all street photographers in this age that seems to have turned street photography itself into something approaching a cult, with its rules, regulations, expectations, tropes, tricks, judges, juries, fans, heroes and followers many of whom, it appears, have forgotten how it all began or that it even has a history. 

Garry Winogrand, as moviemaker Sasha Waters Freyer states in her Kickstarter campaign to raise finishing funds for her documentary movie Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable, was artist, iconoclast, man of his time and the epic photographer of 20th century American life.

More than a street photographer

Just a little bit more than simply a street photographer, methinks. Perhaps Garry Winogrand should be referred to as a great documentary photographer or a brilliant urban documentary photographer or one of the fathers of us all, because that is the depth and breadth of his achievements and influence.

The art of urban documentary is no less than that of depicting the state of humanity in this very moment, so that we, our contemporaries and our descendants may understand this time and us just a little better and perhaps learn from our mistakes and our successes. Even better, avoid repeating those mistakes and understand how to be successful in their own right.

Garry Winogrand died too young to fully experience his own creative success and to be celebrated for his insight into urban America. His life and career followed and overlapped with that of Robert Frank, the photographer who almost singlehandedly kicked off the strand of urban documentary photography that asks questions more than it provides answers.

That is a strand of photography which which I identify, given that no artist can ever claim to have all the answers or even some of them and should not be making such claims. Instead, we can hope to stimulate viewers into asking questions of their own.

The central photographer of his generation

John Szarkowski rightfully hailed Garry Winogrand as “the central photographer of his generation” and what a generation that was, including such leading lights of the photography of everyday life lived out in the streets as Lee Friedlander and Joel Meyerowitz, with whom he often roamed the streets of New York City in the 1960s, crossing paths with Tony Ray-Jones, Tod Papageorge and Diane Arbus.

All were the artistic children of Robert Frank and Joel Meyerowitz was so inspired by watching Frank at work while he, Meyerowitz, was an advertising art director but only one of those creative offspring, Winogrand, had the same toughness and sense of difference from those he photographed.

The others, especially Meyerowitz who was so influenced by William Eggleston’s achievements in colour, possessed a lyricism that Winogrand’s hard-edged directness and desire to see life depicted in new ways mitigated against. Only American expatriate William Klein came close then surpassed that directness through confrontation.

One of Winogrand’s most famous comments on his work is this, quoted in Sean O’Hagan’s article on the then crisis in street photography in The Guardian in 2010, Why street photography is facing a moment of truth:

“When I’m photographing, I see life,” he once said. “That’s what I deal with. I don’t have pictures in my head… I don’t worry about how the picture is going to look. I let that take care of itself… It’s not about making a nice picture. That anyone can do.”

The history and achievements of street photography – or social landscape or urban documentary or what you will – and its most influential practitioners such as Winogrand has yet to be definitely written or delineated in moving images.

It may never be fully so, but at least Sasha Waters Freyer can tell us about the one who is arguably the greatest and we who can should chip in in order to help her do that.

Fujifilm’s GFX 50S: New Ways of Seeing and Shooting, More Affordable Big Sensor High IQ

Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format digital camera is more revolutionary than the most commonly shared images of it suggest. That is the first thought I had when I began exploring then downloading the product shots at Fujifilm UK’s image bank and I think it is only going to really sink in when more photographers than just the few manage to try one out. 

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The press images hinting at the GFX 50S being more than meets the eye prompted me to download them all and publish them here, below. Specifications lists like the one further down the page are well and good, but seeing is where we will understand the real nature of this camera and its accessories.

The most obvious way of looking at the GFX 50S is as a larger version of the Fujifilm X-T2, but with a medium format sensor instead of an APS-C one. And in a way, that is correct. The GFX 50S has the external form factor of a DSLR except for the fact that we know the GFX 50S – with S, we assume, standing for SLR-like –is most certainly a mirrorless camera with all that implies about its lack of mirror slap and its ability to use an electronic or a mechanical shutter.

But then dig a little deeper.

The Camera

That pentaprism-like electronic viewfinder (EVF) unit is removable and yet, without it, the GFX 50S remains perfectly functional but as something more resembling a small view camera. Instead of a ground glass, it has a high resolution rear LCD screen.

So does the X-Pro and X-T2, like a slew of other excellent contemporary mirrorless and, for that matter, DSLR, cameras, all providing a live view that is perfectly adequate for using to compose, focus and create your photographs.

Contemporary mirrorless devices push digital cameras beyond the limitations of analog cameras in ways that mean I for one can never go back.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2, for example, might be considered three cameras in one, in analog terms. In one way it is a small view camera not unlike the 120 roll film  Linhof Technika 70, one of two Linhof Technika cameras with which I learned professional photography, the other being a Linhof Super Technika 4″x5″ sheet film camera with optional roll film magazines and a case full of accessories.

Although purchasing my own Linhof was beyond reach, the lessons learned on those two amazing cameras have stayed with me for life. They intimately shaped my portrait photography style.

Even when I used other view cameras, usually field cameras, for my work as a magazine portrait photographer, I often did so with a Linhof variable format 120 roll film magazine for more shots, faster operating speed and the choice of shooting square, rectangular or panoramic aspect ratios.

While I often find myself using the monitor of my X-Pro2 and other digital cameras as if a small view camera’s ground glass, there is no substitute for the real thing. It is all about the experience on both sides of the camera.

For me, a contemplative experience of care and precision. For my subject, an experience of respect, sometimes awe, and oftentimes an hypnotic fascination with this remarkable high precision machine into whose eye I was asking them to gaze, unflinchingly.

Then consider the images of the tilting EVF along with the images of the tilting monitor, both so reminiscent of the town lens reflex cameras that provided me with lessons in another way of seeing and photographing.

The Lenses

Although I learned that on an art school Mamiyaflex C330 TLR with interchangeable lenses, I chose Rolleiflex T and Rolleiflex 2.8G cameras for my professional use, for urban documentary and portraiture. All three left me with an appreciation of square format, 1:1 aspect ratio, for those times when I wanted to draw my viewers’ attention in so clearly it was like an arrow into the centre of a bullseye.

All my cameras were secondhand until I discovered 120 roll film rangefinder cameras and 120 roll film DSLRs. I won’t bore you with a list save to say that it was with the rangefinder cameras where I most felt at home due to having discovered Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras as a teenaged press photographer way out in the sticks working it all out for myself.

The Heritage

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Rangefinder cameras have a special place in my heart to this day for their immersive window into the world, their sense of deep space and spatial relationships across the frame as well as forward and backwards.

After the demands of commercial work caused me to invest in 120 roll film DSLRs, while conceiving the magazine I later went on to cofound, I discovered Fujifilm’s GX680 Professional series, a remarkable creation combining the best of view cameras with the best of DSLRs, but one which regrettably, I never got to try out.

Another range of Fujifilm analog cameras that I was luckier with were its 120 rangefinder cameras that now live on in my hands in ghostly form as the X-Pro2.

When the late, great photojournalist-turned-landscape photographer Michael Reichmann favourably compared the Canon EOS D30 DSLR’s sensor to Fujifilm Provia 100F film, it was clear that digital photography had attained the ability to match the look of analog.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro 2, X-T2 and the coming X100F with their 24 MP sensors  produce image quality far above that of 35mm film, rivalling if not surpassing that of low ISO 120 format film. We have so much to be grateful for.

There is just one thing I am a little peeved about, though, and that is that we have lost the wide variety of cameras we had during the analog era.

We now have remarkable image quality to the degree that images made on medium format DSLRs can surpass the resolution of 8″x10″ sheet film as Mr Reichmann demonstrated in another of his famous reviews.

But what all this testing, side-by-side comparisons, digital up against analog and so on fail to do is consider the experience of the cameras and lenses in question, on both sides of the sensor, and what that contributes to the images we make with them.

Image quality is crucial of course, and I say that as someone who commissioned photographs for 48-sheet posters during my advertising agency days and who now is contemplating a possible return to the art gallery wall.

For me most of all the experience of the photographer and the subject is what reigns supreme and always will.

The Specifications

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Viewing:

More GFX Challenges videos were released to go with the January 2017 announcement of the Fujifilm GFX 50S.

Image Credits:

Header image by Carmel D. Morris.