“The nice thing about photography, is that you are not good at all in the beginning. You need time to develop your skills, your own signature and a way to express yourself and your feelings with the use of photogaphy.”
– Peter Lindbergh –
With this project, I never thought that it would be possible to include so many legendary photographers. Vincent Peters, David Yarrow, Anton Corbijn, Soren Solkaer: all of them are included. It was in the city of Rotterdam where I was able to have a dialogue with another legend: Peter Lindbergh. I have spoken with the German portrait / fashion photographer in the Kunsthal, and this article is the final result.
Kate Moss, Paris, 2015 Vogue Italia © Peter Lindbergh (Courtesy of Peter Lindbergh, Paris /Gagosian Gallery)
Before working as a photogapher, Lindbergh has worked as a window dresser for a local department store and enrolled the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960’s. He remembers these years :
“I preferred actively seeking out van Gogh’s inspirations, my idol, rather than painting the mandatory portraits and landscapes taught in Art schools.”
Inspired by the work of the Dutch painter, he moved to Arles for almost a year, and then embarked a journey hitchhiking through Spain and North Africa. He later studied free painting at the College of Art in Krefeld. After moving to Düsseldorf in 1971, he turned his attention to photography and worked for two years assisting German photographer Hans Lux, before opening his own studio in 1973. Becoming well known in his native country, he joined the Stern magazine family along with –photography legends Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Hans Feurer, and moved to Paris in 1978 to pursue his career.
Uma Thurman, Los Angeles, USA, 2011 Vogue Italia © Peter Lindbergh (Courtesy of Peter Lindbergh, Paris / Gagosian Gallery)
Considered as a pioneer in photography, he has introduced a form of new realism by redefining the standards of beauty with timeless images. His humanist approach and idealisation of women sets him apart from the other photographers as he privileges the soul and the personality. He changed drastically the standards of the fashion photography in times of excessive retouching considering that there is something else that makes a person interesting, beyond their age. He explains :
“This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.”
His singular vision, presents them in their pure state, «in all honesty», avoiding all stereotypes as he privileges a face with hardly any make-up, in a baring that enhances the authenticity and the natural beauty of his women.
Lindbergh is the first photographer to include a narrative in his fashion series, his storytelling brought a new vision of art and fashion photography. Over the years, he has created images that marked the history of photography, characterised by a minimalist approach of the post-modernist photography. Back in 1988, Lindbergh garnered international acclaim by showing a new generation of models all dressed in white shirts that he had recently discovered and launched their careers. A year later, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz, young models then, were photographed together for the first time by him for the legendary January 1990 Vogue UK cover.
Famous for his narrative fashion series, his work is best known for his simple and revealing portraits, his still lives and his strong influences from early German Cinema and industrial surroundings of his childhood, dance and cabarets, but also landscapes and outer space. Lindbergh works with the most prestigious fashion brands and magazines since the late 1970’s, including international editions of Vogue, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar US, Wall Street Journal Magazine, The Face, Visionaire, Interview and W. In 2016, Lindbergh was commissioned for a record third time to create the 2017 edition of the Pirelli calendar, being the first one to photograph it more than twice in the fifty years history of the iconic calendar. He previously photographed the 1996 and 2002 editions.
Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington & Cindy Crawford,New York, 1990 © Peter Lindbergh (Courtesy of Peter Lindbergh, Paris / Gagosian Gallery)
When I ask Lindbergh about his definition of creativity, he has to admit that he is always philosophing about the process of creativity:
“Creativity always exists out of something: creation itself is the birth of something, and something cannot come from nothing. When someone creates something: a painting, a poem, a photograph, the creativity comes from an idea, from a feeling, from emotion, or from a combination of ideas, feelings and emotions that are somehow ‘reborn’ from all our experiences and perspectives.
A lot of artists look around and see and follow a certain trend. When you are following a trend, you know what you are doing, but you do not know why. That’s the whole point of creativity: the one that knows both what and why he is doing something is the creative person. Every person can follow a trend and do something based on what they see. But real creativity is also about feeling the things that you do.
You do not have to know where the feeling, idea or emotion is based on: the source for creativity is limitless. It is limitless because it is always here: the things you do, things you see, things you hear: the sources of creativity are always there, but the creativity itself isn’t.”
Peter Lindbergh, Rotterdam, 2017 © NCO Photography
Text ©: Mike Warrink / Capturing Creativity