Pioneer in fashion photography
Known for his memorable cinematic images, Peter Lindbergh is recognized as one of the most influential contemporary photographers. Born in Lissa (Germany) in 1944, he spent his childhood in Duisburg (North Rhine-Westphalia). He worked as a window dresser for a local department store and enrolled in the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960’s.
He remembers these years: “I preferred actively seeking the inspirations of Van Gogh, 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 on a journey hitchhiking through Spain and North Africa. He later studied free painting at the College of Art in Krefeld. Influenced by Joseph Kosuth and the Conceptual movement, before graduating he was invited to exhibit his work at the renowned avant-garde Galerie Denise René-Hans Mayer in 1969.
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 further his career.
Considered a pioneer in photography, he introduced a form of new realism by redefining the standards of beauty with timeless images. His humanist approach and idealization of women set him apart from the other photographers as he prioritizes the soul and the personality. His singular vision presents them in their pure state, “in all honesty”, avoiding all stereotypes as he favours a face with hardly any make-up, bare in a way that enhances the authenticity and the natural beauty of the women he photographs.
He offered a new interpretation of women post-1980’s without paying too much attention to clothing, believing that, as he said, “If you take out the fashion and the artifice, you can then see the real person.” British journalist Suzy Menkes points out that “refusing to bow to glossy perfection is Peter Lindbergh's trademark – the essence of the images that look into each person's unvarnished soul, however familiar or famous the sitter.”
Lindbergh was the first photographer to include a narrative in his fashion series, and his storytelling introduced a new vision of art and fashion photography. Over the years, he has created images that marked the history of photography, characterized by a minimalist approach to post-modernist photography. Back in 1988, Lindbergh garnered international acclaim and launched the careers of a new generation of models he had recently discovered, showing them all dressed in white shirts.
A year later he photographed Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz, young models then, together for the first time, for the legendary January 1990 Vogue UK cover.
Pop singer George Michael, the initiator of the “Supermodels movement” later followed by Gianni Versace, was inspired by Lindbergh's Vogue photos to create the iconic video for his song "Freedom '90", marking the beginning of the era of celebrity models, which redefined the image of the modern woman.
In the May 2016 issue of the prestigious magazine Art Forum, Lindbergh declares in his interview with journalist Isabel Flower that; "A fashion photographer should contribute to defining the image of the contemporary woman or man in their time, to reflect a certain social or human reality. How surrealistic is today’s commercial agenda to retouch all signs of life and of experience, to retouch the very personal truth of the face itself?"
Famous for his narrative fashion series, Lindbergh's work is best-known for his simple and revealing portraits, his still lifes, and strong influences from early German cinema and the industrial surroundings of his childhood, dance and cabarets, but also landscapes and outer space. Lindbergh has worked 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, 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. His work is part of the permanent collections of many fine arts museums around the world and has also been shown in prestigious museums and galleries. Among these are the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris) and the upcoming exhibition A Different Vision on Fashion Photography at Rem Koolhaas’ Kunsthal in Rotterdam (September 2016), as well as solo exhibitions at Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), Bunkamura Museum of Art (Tokyo) and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow).
Lindbergh has directed a number of critically acclaimed films and documentaries: Models, The Film (1991); Inner Voices (1999) which won the Best Documentary prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2000; Pina Bausch, Der Fensterputzer (2001) and Everywhere at Once (2007), which was narrated by Jeanne Moreau and presented at the Cannes and Tribeca Film Festivals. Lindbergh is represented by Gagosian Gallery and 2b Management. He currently lives between Paris, Arles and New York.