Pretty as a Picture

A show of Karl Lagerfeld's photography is bound to attract a fair bit of attention.

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BERLIN — A show of Karl Lagerfeld’s photography is bound to attract a fair bit of attention.

But no one quite expected the ferocity of the media scrum at the opening of “One Man Shown” on Nov. 24 here: As Lagerfeld entered the crumbling 19th-century former postal service headquarters on Oranienburger Strasse in the central district of Mitte, the usually sedate German press surged forward, almost knocking the art off the walls in the process. Most of the journalists seemed to be more interested in Lagerfeld than his photography, which is a shame: The designer has been working as a photographer since 1987, when he took control of his own ad campaigns.

The 500 photographs in the exhibition are all of Brad Kroenig, today the world’s highest-paid male model, and were taken by Lagerfeld over a three-and-a-half-year period. The exhibition charts Kroenig’s development from naïve all-American boy, when Lagerfeld discovered him, to experienced model posing for the camera. “The idea is quite simple,” explained Lagerfeld at the opening, “to chart the evolution of this unknown face, without knowing at the beginning that he was to become the world’s most famous male model.”

For the show’s curator, Felix Hoffmann, the pictures have a lot to say about the fashion industry. “The photographs are actually very critical,” he said. “They show how a person’s physical presence is used and manipulated by the world of fashion.” It is almost as if, believes Hoffmann, that with every photo shoot, Kroenig loses a piece of his soul.

So does Lagerfeld prefer taking photographs or designing clothes? “It’s hard to say because there is such a symbiosis between fashion and photography. There has always been a real overlap between both fields. I have the good fortune of being able to work in fashion and photography,” he said. “Both areas are so different that you can’t compare them. It’s like hunger and thirst. You need both.”

Lagerfeld has, in fact, been taking photographs since he was a child when he was given his first camera, a Minox. Today, he carries a slim digital camera in his blazer pocket, which he uses constantly to take pictures of people or buildings that capture his imagination. “My camera is like a notebook for me,” he said. “I use it to explain or illustrate an idea, or to show friends something which I think they might find interesting.”

This story first appeared in the November 28, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The exhibition, which was officially opened by the capital’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, is a one-off show put together exclusively for the Cultural Forum for Photography, C/O Berlin. The show will run until Feb. 4.

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