LINDBERGH: IN THE POST-SUPERMODEL ERA

Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK--Peter Lindbergh took a pause from his shooting schedule last week to muse about rising stars and the decline of the supermodel. WWD reached him at the Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, where he's busy photographing Hollywood's Young Turk-ettes for both the December Vanity Fair and Italy's prestigious 2002 Pirelli Calendar. "The Vanity Fair spread is essentially a reportage on the shooting of the Pirelli calendar," explained Lindbergh. "The shoot takes place on film sets, and it looks like a detective movie."Lindbergh seemed happy about the editorial decision to showcase some of the film world's less overexposed talents. "Cameron Diaz, Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman--they're everywhere," he said. Instead, December's Vanity Fair and the Pirelli calendar will feature fresher faces, among them Monet Mazur ("Blow"), Selma Blair ("Cruel Intentions"), Erika Christensen ("Traffic"), Rachael Leigh Cook ("Josie and the Pussycats"), Bridget Moynahan ("Coyote Ugly"), Shannyn Sossamon ('A Knight's Tale"), Julia Stiles ("Save the Last Dance"), James King, Amy Smart ("Road Trip"), Mena Suvari, and Brittany Murphy ("Girl, Interrupted").
Lindbergh explained that, for a photographer, shooting the Pirelli calendar ranks as a high honor. The calendars themselves are as scarce and in-demand as Louis Vuitton graffiti handbags. "They produce about 40,000 of them, but you can't buy them--they are just sent to certain people," said Lindbergh. "I did one five years ago, and I still have letters from people--it's great for connections. Annie Liebowitz and Mario Testino have also done it."
Having been the first to bring together Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, and Christy Turlington on one shoot, Lindbergh is among those credited with launching the "supermodel" phenomenon. He has since elaborated a somewhat sophisticated taxonomy of Nineties supermodels. "Not all the supermodels were the same--they had different specifications. Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford were like products, they always wanted to appear the same," said Lindbergh. "Then there were models like Linda Evangelista and, to some extent, Naomi Campbell, who liked to change looks. In my opinion, one of the most talented of the supermodels was also less famous--Kristen McMenamy. She was like an actress--you could put her in front of a white background, and she'll just do stuff. You put Claudia there, and she'd be like 'what do you want me to do?"'
And where does Kate Moss rank in Lindbergh's supermodel hierarchy? "Kate was an incredible object," he said. "She walks in and she's just Kate and that's enough, you know?"
But the photographer feels that the era of the supermodel may well be over. "We have no supermodels right now," he said. "We have Gisele. But she's more a runway star, her fame came from runway, not from photography. She has no great stories. She has a great body, she's very nice, but she hasn't done anything incredible like Linda [Evangelista]. Linda and Kristen were like artists, actresses."
With music, fashion, and pop stars, the transition from one decade to another is generally guided by an out with the old, in with the new ethos. Will the same formula apply to supermodels? "When the Nineties supermodels were finished, it became much more difficult to get excited about the next batch because they're kids, like 16, 17 years old," Lindbergh said. "It's much less interesting to photograph a 16-year-old than it is a 32-year-old."
His affinities also apply to fashion magazines. He has a particular fondness for Italian Vogue. "We have total freedom there, we go off on assignment and no one says 'you only have 20 pages'," he said. "You'll do a shoot, and they'll run it the way you laid it out. They'll run a 40-page spread."
Lindbergh has a busy summer ahead of him. After the Vanity Fair-Pirelli shoot, he's heading to Stromboli to shoot Chiara Mastroianni. He also plans to attend the opening festivities at "Les Rencontres Arles," the annual international photography festival, which begins July 3rd. This year, festival director Gilles Mora has centered the exhibits around the theme of "Anonymity." Lindbergh's work, which often features supermodels in quasi-cinematic tableaux that render them practically anonymous, will be prominently featured.

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