Behind his Lens

A major retrospective and accompanying book pay homage to legendary fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh. Sienna Vittoria Lee-Coughlin speaks to curator and Lindbergh expert Thierry-Maxime Loriot about the enduring brilliance of his vision of femininity and natural beauty.

Published in S/ magazine, Fall 2016. Read it here.

In a world where most images are retouched and Photoshopped, fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh’s shots celebrating women’s natural beauty stand out. “He likes to show truth, reality, and beauty,” says Thierry-Maxime Loriot, the curator of Peter Lindbergh. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography, an exhibition on the famed photographer. “He wants to liberate people from the terror of youth and perfection with powerful images, and it works.”

The show, opening this month at the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the Netherlands, along with an accompanying book, Peter Lindbergh (published by Taschen), showcases the photographer’s iconic black-and-white, makeup-free portraits as well as other major works from his oeuvre since 1978— including behind-the-scenes elements such as notes, storyboards, props, and polaroids. The German photographer is credited as the pioneer of narrative fashion photography: “He works like a movie director, with a script and detailed scenes of what will be shot,” says Loriot. Furthermore, Lindbergh sparked a cultural movement when he discovered a group of then-unknown young models who went on to become the celebrity supermodels of the ’90s, when he shot the 1990 British Vogue cover featuring Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford. “When he discovered all the supermodels, they were not prettier than other [models], they were just different and had unique personalities,” explains Loriot. “He empowers women with his lens.”

Lindbergh’s unique, dreamlike vision and his ability to capture the spirit and personality of his subjects have remained constant threads in his work to this day. Instead of subscribing to beauty standards dictated by society or the fashion industry, he continues to bring a touch of humanity and intimacy to all his work. “He does not go to fashion shows or read fashion magazines, on purpose,” says Loriot. Rather, he creates his own world in his photographs, reference-free.

Peter Lindbergh. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography is on view at the Kunsthal Rotterdam from September 10, 2016—February 12, 2017, with travelling dates and locations to be announced.