Peter Lindbergh, women lover
He’s constructed his oeuvre through fashion, but never conceded to its constraints. A retrospective in Rotterdam and a new book by Taschen celebrate the unique eye and talent of this outstanding photographer, bringing together all his iconic images.
Celebrating a fashion photographer who has always gone beyond fashion – such was the challenge for curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot with his new exhibition Peter Lindbergh – A Different Vision on Fashion Photography at the Rotterdam Kunsthal. Featuring 220 prints, the show highlights all Lindbergh’s unconventionality, and demonstrates the way this German-born photographer, who began his career in the late 80s, has managed to transcend times and trends to forge his own singular vision. Hand-written notes, story-boards, accessories, Polaroids, films and contact sheets accompany the images, while a new book by Taschen allows you to take 400 shots home with you.
Ignoring industry conventions, Lindbergh refused from the outset to focus on the clothes. His shots were barely retouched in an unflinching quest to reveal the individual beauty of the women he was photographing. Never raw or trash (à la Larry Clark), his realism is an ode to life’s contrasting beauty, as well as a riposte to the morbid search for perfection. “Believing that every fashion photograph is to a certain extent a portrait, he’s convinced that it’s also the photographer’s duty to define the image of contemporary woman, beyond a simple human being wearing a dress. He firmly believes that the photographer must do everything to make each image a portrait of someone or the story of something,” explains Loriot. By playing with its rules and aesthetic codes, Lindbergh reveals beneath fashion’s smooth, glossy surface a human and dramatic dimension. Three decades before the arrival of the “fashion film” that every brand now puts out on its social-media networks, Lindbergh was already adopting a cinematographic aproach to the genre.
Numéro: What’s behind this show?
Peter Lindbergh: Thierry-Maxime Loriot had the idea of putting on an exhibition that would examine my view on fashion over the past 35 years. I was rather surprised to start with, because right from the beginning of my career I’ve always been careful to keep a certain distance with respect to the fashion world, for example by refusing to go to runway shows. But we met to talk about it, and we agreed that it was indeed my vision of women, their beauty and their archetypes that was at the heart of the project. That’s what has always interested me: the woman, and not the clothes. In this show, the prints are grouped thematically according to what the curator calls my “passions”: supermodels, the Zeitgeist – because some of my shots deal with questions of society such as gender –, dance, big cities, and Martians and other extra-terrestrials, who regularly feature in my work. We also did a special shoot for the exhibition in the port of Rotterdam with Lara Stone.
You’ve often been compared to a filmmaker. Was your black-andwhite vocabulary inspired by the silver screen?
German cinema, Pabst and Fritz Lang, and especially masterpieces like Metropolis and Der blaue Engel, influenced me a lot. For me, black and white is truer than colour, even if that might seem contradictory. I think my belief comes from the American photographers of the Farm Security Administration who, in the 1930s, documented in black and white the ravages of the Great Depression in the southern states.
Your images are totally timeless, while fashion is all about seasons and cycles. Is this intentional?
It’s totally intentional because trends don’t interest me. I use fashion to talk about women, and I’ve long cultivated my outsider status. I hope it isn’t possible to date my images from the 80s or 90s. This is also why the hair and make-up are relatively minimal in my photos. And I don’t accept the diktat of youth either, which doesn’t take into account the real beauty that stems from individuality and the courage of being oneself. I recently worked with supermodels who are now in their 50s. It’s such a pleasure to see how well they’ve aged, and I want to show how magnificent they are today!
Peter Lindbergh - A different vision on fashion photography, jusqu'au 12 février 2017 Kunsthal, Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA Rotterdam, Pays-Bas. www.kunsthal.nl
Peter Lindbergh - A different vision on fashion photography, Publié chez Taschen, www.taschen.com
By Delphine Roche