I remember coming across Peter Lindbergh’s “City of Angels” editorial of Amber Valletta shot in New York City, and inspired by Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), 1987, some time after I had watched the film. I could immediately pinpoint the influence, one of my all-time favourite movies, but I was also transfixed by the photographer’s interpretation, by his own visual narrative showing an angelic figure in a cold and dark city. The German director is a lifelong friend of Lindbergh’s and his film is but a small part of the huge influence that movies have had on the photographer’s work.
White Shirts: Estelle Lefébure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patiz and Christy Turlington, Malibu, 1988, Vogue USA
He was the first fashion photographer to put models in nothing else but simple white shirts, no recognizable fashion, for a photo shoot. They were giggling on the beach, looking natural and casual, wearing hardly any make-up. This was never heard of before him. Peter Lindbergh offered a new interpretation of women post-1980s without paying too much attention to clothing, as it is noted in the book Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography, one of the dearest and most beautiful photography books in my library, a stunning photographic collection of more than 400 Lindbergh images, many previously unpublished.
Peter Lindbergh never loses sight of the woman in his images – it is a special kind of woman, it is her personality, attitude, inner-self that shines through, not the clothes she’s wearing. “Peter is a photographer who will make photography history, because he is not linked to trends. He has his own identity: he is not a fashion photographer. He uses fashion to talk to women and to talk about women, which is very different,” said Franca Sozzani, the editor in chief of Vogue Italia for almost 30 years. Of all the fashion magazines Lindbergh has collaborated with, I have always considered the Italian Vogue the perfect platform for his stories. Maybe because Franca Sozzani’s Vogue, too, offered a new interpretation of fashion and went beyond boundaries, while emphasizing that visual storytelling is the most universal language. “Before fashion, I love images,” she would say.
“I wanted to move away from the rather formal, quite perfectly
styled woman who was very artificial. I was more concerned about
a more outspoken, adventurous woman in control of her life and
not too concerned about her social status or emancipated by
masculine protection. My ideal was always the young women I met
in art school, very independent and who could speak for themselves.
The supermodels represented this change. It explains why they
dominated the visual world for many years.”
Amber Valletta, New York, 1993, Harper’s Bazaar
He loves the classics. His photography is timeless, you can not place it in a particular decade or another; it does not date. His truth- and true beauty-revealing black and white images are grainy and cinematic. One of his biggest influences is the cinema, after all. He favours sets that remind him of the behind-the-scenes bonus features found on DVDs, which he prefers to the actual movies. The subtle play of light and shadow, the smoky atmosphere of his sets, the movie studio equipment, the cinematic framing and lighting, the fine line between reality and fiction – he likes to make his own movies. The models are his actors, and he lets them inhabit his movie sets.
“Black and white is interpretation of reality,
a more privileged connection to truth than color.”
Catherine Deneuve, Deauville, France, 1990, Vogue Paris
Linda Evangelista, Parma, Italy, 1990, Vogue Italia
The German Expressionist films with Asta Nielsen, Josef von Sternberg’s Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich (“transforming par excellence, feminine but androgynous, totally unconventional”, one of the strong women he loves), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis were among his first cinematic influences. But his fascination with cinema went on to the Italian neo-realist films, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, Luchino Visconti’s noir Ossessione, Marcel Carné’s Hôtel du Nord, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Birds, or Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Lindbergh reinterpreted all these films in his photographic stories, reinforcing the far-reaching power of cinema, advancing the language of fashion photography, but ultimately inventing his very own, distinctive visual universe.
Linda Evangelista, Corpus Christi, Texas, 1994, Harper’s Bazaar
Masculine/feminine, one of the recurring themes in Lindbergh’s photography
left: Linda Evangelista and Hugh Grant, New York, 1992, Harper’s Bazaar
right: Linda Evangelista, Brooklyn, New York, 1990, Vogue Italia
Lindbergh’s 1990 story with Helena Christensen and American actress Debbie Lee Carrignton as an alien from outer space was the beginning of science-fiction representation and cinematic suspense in his work, considered the first ever narrative story in fashion photography, drawing inspiration from his captivation with science fiction movies from the 1950s, like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), or E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). A different vision on fashion photography.
Marie-Sophie Wilson, Paris, 1988
“This should be the responsibility of photographers today:
to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth
and perfection. Beauty coming from real values is a different
thing and it does not need retouching.”
photos: Classiq, of the book “Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography”