TURIN — Walking through La Venaria Reale’s rooms hosting his exhibition, it’s hard to imagine which women Peter Lindbergh didn’t have the chance to photograph during his almost 40-year career.
But on Friday night during the gala dinner celebrating “Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography,” an impressive retrospective of his work that runs until Feb. 4 at the former residence of the royal house of Savoia located in the Turin area, the photographer candidly admitted he hadn’t shot “Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep.”
Curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot, this is the third leg of the traveling exhibit, which due to the support of main sponsor Swarovski, was first unveiled in Rotterdam at the Kunsthal museum last winter and, the following summer, at the Kunsthalle museum in Munich. In Turin, the curator retained the original thematic organization — Supermodels, Couturiers, Zeitgeist, Dance, The Unknown, Darkroom, Silver Screen and Icons — but everything was adapted to fit the structure of the antique space.
“I have a totally different feeling here. Rotterdam is a museum with big spaces, Munich too. And this is totally different. I was shocked when I came here. I thought, this is never going to work for the exhibition. Because of all the curtains and the small rooms,” said Lindbergh, referring to the structure of La Venaria Reale. “And then they turned everything around. I started feeling the power of history and since the rooms are small, Thierry [Loriot] had to find new constellations. The Dance section was one long room in Rotterdam and here it’s in three rooms. And you come in, you run into Pina Bausch [a large-sized portrait of the German dancer welcomes visitors into the exhibition] and it’s just like, you fall backwards. And it became an advantage. My friend at Gagosian said it looks like a collector’s home. It’s much more personal than the other ones.”
Along with recapping the fashion and entertainment industries over the last four decades, the exhibition puts the focus on Lindbergh’s special approach to feminine beauty, which he always wanted to exalt by capturing its instinctive and emotional power.
While admitting that he’s not nostalgic for the supermodels’ era in fashion — “I cannot be nostalgic. I have had that,” — Lindbergh unveiled his new mission.
“The main goal now is to give women a decent place in photography and media. That’s much more important than looking for the next supermodel, because supermodels had a very specific social function. At that time, there were different women, they did need to walk along with all those signs of social success, like crocodile bags and all those colors, the huge sunglasses,” Lindberg explained. “That was a time, at the end of the Eighties, when the social elements, the showing off of your status, was very important. I come from a very simple background and my vision of women is related to my years at art school. There were these 22-, 23-year-old girls, they had a purpose to be there, they were modern, they were free. I managed to mature a very vivid image of women and that is what really inspired me when I started shooting supermodels.”
And, for example, the casual, spontaneous look of his schoolmates definitely influenced one of his most famous pictures — the one, shot in 1988 for Vogue, capturing Estelle Léfebure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Christy Turlington on the Santa Monica beach wearing only simple, white shirts.
And natural, un-retouched beauty is definitely what Lindbergh continues to look for.
“There are a lot of people you just see them and you think that it cannot be possible. They must be so much more interesting than the pictures of them,” said Lindbergh, revealing that he was shocked by the intensity of Irina Shayk’s face only when she went to visit him with a friend in Paris with no makeup and a casual look. “She was wearing a black turtleneck and jeans. I couldn’t recognize her and after a while she told me who she was. I was shocked. I would have never realized how incredibly beautiful she is without seeing her that way. And then I shot her and every picture was a dream.”
According to Lindbergh, nowadays the biggest obstacle in the creation of candid, natural, instinctive pictures is linked to the immediate, easy access to pictures allowed by digital devices.
“The biggest enemy is digital — but not from a technical point. It’s the digital because the digital democratizes the making of the pictures. Models now pose in front of the camera but behind the photographer there is a big screen where everybody can see and make its comments. This is the end of photography, the end of photographers and the end of everything,” he said. “Using digital, there are ten people in front of the screen telling the photographer and the model what they should do. Photography cannot be democratic. Digital put everything at the same level…there is one voice, two voices, three voices. The more people talk about it, the less you can do. You have to be a dictator. You have to stop them. I really hate to say no but with the digital when they ask me ‘Can I see,’ I have to say ‘No.’ People who know, they don’t ask me anymore.”
However, according to Italian model Mariacarla Boscono, Lindbergh definitely belongs to the category of easy-to-work-with people.
“I have so many great, special memories of us working together, but I’ll never forget the way he had been patient with me years ago. I was very young, I arrived on the set with bleached blond hair, he barely could recognize me, he was kind of shocked. But he photographed me with the same love and passion he has always showed me,” she said.
The images of the exhibition have been collected in a 500-page photo book, titled “Peter Lindbergh. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography” and published by Taschen.
“When I saw it, it took my breath away. There is something coming out of the book which is not about photography but the photographer’s relationship with these pictures. It’s so intense and beautiful,” Lindbergh said.