These are sinister days, Steve Hiett last Thursday, Jean Marquis this past Monday and yesterday Peter Lindbergh. And tomorrow?
Today’s edition is dedicated to Peter Lindbergh and Carole Schmitz shared with us her conversations with one of the last very few true genius photographers, universally respected and beloved.
The Sultan has bowed out by Carole Schmitz
For him the most important thing was to create images. Peter Lindbergh, one of the most requested and appreciated photographers of the fashion world unfortunately left us too early. Master image-maker, he belonged to the very closed circle of a few star photographers, a status of which he hardly boasted. Like no other, he chiseled his subjects with a perfect eye. His look at women was of sensual beauty. His vision was current and timeless. He came to the photography by chance, as he liked to remind, Peter was above all an observer and no detail escaped him. Photography and fashion never got to his head, quite the contrary … Open, approachable, always smiling, he was a man of incredible generosity and perfect lucidity about the world in which he was evolving. For him, creation was the birth of something that comes from a feeling, an emotion or a combination of ideas. His images with realistic atmosphere celebrated beauty without artifice. For the most part already iconic, they are and will remain powerful from now on and for eternity, full of contrasts and melancholy by moment. Privileged to have been able, several times, to meet and exchange with this “grand Monsieur”, I will especially keep from shim the image of a gentleman who did not cheat.
Carole Schmitz : The exhibition that is dedicated to you and which will go around the world is entitled « a different vision on fashion photography”, what can you tell us about this different vision?
Peter Lindbergh :The idea for this exhibition came from curator Thierry Loriot. His idea was to show a personal view over more than thirty years of fashion. I assume that he considered what I have done through all these years as very different from the mainstream fashion photography.
C.S : What initiated this exhibition ?
P.L : I assume again that he was interested in a different and consistent interpretation of 30 or more years of fashion and of course photography.
C.S : What will it be like, will it be identical in every city?
P.L : This exhibition is supposed to travel to about 5 to 10 museums all over the world and will be adapted to each of them. The content will not change, only the display and maybe even the proportions of the different sections…
C.S : You are considered one of the most influential fashion photographers of this time, what still inspires you?
P.L : My inspiration comes practically never from fashion, or let me rather say, eventually it does, once in a while. I don’t go anymore to fashion shows for more than 15 years and the only reason is, that I don’t want to get inspired from fast changing collections, as, I assume, many other photographers do. I love and admire the enormous creativity the designers show with their work, but I am convinced that being independent from the collections gives me a much wider range of inspiration. I am inspired by everything today, a story, a poem, a conversation with someone who can tell you something you didn’t know… and so on. There is so much out there, waiting to be discovered and translated into something else. I think that the duty of fashion photography is not to help selling clothes, but in a much larger context, to inspire, to talk about women, including being responsible to define women in the time we live in. Fashion photography should be much larger than fashion itself. To come back to your question, the world is full of inspiration. The worst things happening right in front of you, right beside the most beautiful things. All at the same time is inspiring.
C.S : Do you feel more like a photographer, a fashion photographer or an artist ?
P.L : Franca Sozzani, director of Conde Nast Italy and editor of Vogue Italia and for thirty long years my close friend has said the following in an interview, not long ago: “Peter is a photographer who will mark photo history, ( I am sorry, this is Franca talking !!!) because he’s 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”… I totally agree with this. To answer the second part of your question, about feeling like an artist or not, I propose to go to the interview I gave about this topic with the editors of the american art magazine “Art Forum” from May 2016 (page 296 to 307 ” the new look, art and fashion photography”). I answer this question in details. As a joke or a provocation, I often say that I am a fashion photographer … A qualifier that many deny to boast of being artists. Personally, I think that fashion photography is a fantastic vehicle to express what you want to say.
C.S : You are affectionately nicknamed “the Sultan”, where does it come from ?
P.L : This comes from different time, when I was still in art school and part of a group exhibition in a German museum. When they were printing the catalogue the curator asked me on the phone if I had an artist name and I answered totally spontanous:” yes, Sultan” this has been my name through my artists years, including the solo exhibition at “Denise Rene / Hans Mayer Gallery”.
C.S : What kind of image do you have of today’s women?
P.L : When I look around, I am shocked what is done to women today. The idea of beauty has been transformed, disconnected from reality and cleaned from any signs of personal experiences, an interchangeable mask for commercial use. The image I have of the woman on glossy paper is horrible. Basically, I do not know who really decides the image to give of the woman, nor where is their interest … if not pecuniary. And as such everything is sanitized. Not a trace of wrinkles or experience … Is this the image of the woman we must give? I do not think so. Women are today stuck by diktats, they want to appear young at any cost. It distresses me, because what makes the beauty of a woman is precisely the borrows left by time. And more personal, I think that the woman is the most beautiful creations. In my opinion, women are much more interesting than men. They are brave, delicate, sensitive. I adore them … Besides, sometimes I think that if I had been a woman, I would be a lesbian … (laughs). But maybe if I was really one, I would not think so !!!
C.S : What is beauty to Peter Lindbergh ?
P.L : I’ve just finished the Pirelli calendar 2017. I had a quite precise message that I wanted to convey with these images. I wrote a short text to explain, but let me tell you first what we did. I asked 15 actresses I am very close to, if they wanted to be part of t his calendar, explaining that I wanted to photograph very revealing portraits, showing their real, own beauty and sensibility, these days a rather revolutionary project. All 15 said yes, to be part of this experiment. (The names are off the record, let me only mention five, assuming you will be fair and not print them before November: Nicole Kidman, Robin Wright, Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Chastain……) here is the text I wrote yesterday to be printed on the opening page: “ In a time when women are represented in the media and everywhere else as ambassadors of perfection and youth, I thought it was important to remind everyone, that there is a different beauty, more real and truthful, not manipulated by commercial or any other interests, a beauty which speaks about individuality, courage to be yourself and your very own sensibility…”
C.S : What are your beauty cannons?
P.L : To difficult to answer, there are so many….
C.S : What is actually your vision about fashion ?
P.L : Fashion today is too stressful for the designers. No one can do 25 collections a year without getting crazy under the pressure to be artistically and commercially successful.
C.S : A fashion trend that annoys you?
P.L : No.
C.S : Once you said that beauty is “boring”. Do you still have the same opinion?
P.L : It depends what beautiful (beau) means. If it means today’s religion of perfection and youth, I would rather call it not only boring but even more devestating. It is beauty made of imperfections that is interesting.
C.S : Your portraits reveal a certain lack of inhibition and physical grace, how do you manage to obtain this result, whatever the person you are photographing?
P.L : The answer is simple: by being myself and real.
C.S : Who would you like to photograph and who has not yet sit in front your cammera?
P.L : Vanessa Redgrave.
C.S : You are particularly fond of black-and-white photography, which accounts for nearly 60% of your work. What brings black and white that you do not find in color?
P.L : I use 75% Black&White, but I have to say that color can be often much more interesting than Black&White. There have been several reasons in different times. In the beginning I loved the idea that Black&White interprets reality and this felt like a little step towards art (laughs) but later it was more important for me that I felt it was more real and truthful, which is obviously wrong. I felt closer to the truth when using Black&White, especially when shooting portraits.
C.S : Photography has evolved a lot since you started. What is your professional opinion on these changes?
P.L : The digitalisation was very helpful in many regards. The use of a screen, visible for everyone to watch in real time, a privilege which was in better times reserved for the photographer only. This little detail will kill the photographers and therefore the photography with it.
C.S : What is essential in your work?
P.L : Humility and truth.
C.S : What still motivates you ?
P.L : There is nothing more interesting than photography, no worries I am only talking for myself !
C.S : Do you have any regrets ?
P.L : The only missing thing in my life is time, I mean time I can use for myself or my (soon to be) 7 grandchildren.
C.S : Who is Peter behind Mr. Lindbergh ?
P.L : I can’t help you with this , as I am always the Peter behind Mister Lindbergh and I don’t think I ever met him !
C.S: What are the 3 contemporary artists with whom you would gladly exchange your art?
P.L: Michael Heizer, Gerhard Richter, Joseph Kosuth.
C.S : What is your motto?
P.L : “To show yourself as you are, with no intentional or fancy way of adjusting your personality, is the most important thing there is.” (Shunryu Suzuki).
C.S : What is your luxury ?
P.L : That I can live after the previous quote from Suzuki, but also, I have to admit, to possess a magnificent 100ft long English yacht from 1964 with an interior designed by my friend Christian Liaigre.