MILAN — Italian photographer Bob Krieger died on Thursday at 84. The cause of death is still to be defined.
Through his work spanning four decades, Krieger contributed to a pivotal moment in Italian history — the rise of the Made in Italy culture throughout the world. He lensed prominent personalities from the country’s fashion, political and sports arenas, and collaborated with international publications including The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, while he served as art director of the Bazaar Italia title from 1970 to 1975.
Starting from the Sixties, Krieger photographed editorials and iconic campaigns for Valentino, Gianfranco Ferré, Versace, Missoni, Laura Biagiotti, Moschino and Emilio Pucci and lensed top models including Linda Evangelista, Iman and Janice Dickinson. His informal black-and-white portraits of the likes of Giorgio Armani, Valentino Garavani, Miuccia Prada and Gianni Versace have remained memorable.
“For me Bob Krieger was a friend. He was Milan. He was fashion, even before fashion became the dazzling phenomenon of the Eighties. [He was] ahead of the times and always perfectly contemporary,” said Armani. “I have always found extraordinary his ability to grasp people’s character and narrate it in the truth of a photograph, which was never an ambush but the result of his incredible kindness and of the discretion through which he got close to people. He was a true gentleman, a word that today is almost out of our vocabulary,” he added.
The bond between the designer and photographer was strengthened in 1982, when Krieger portrayed him for the iconic cover of the Time magazine, which sealed Armani’s success worldwide in what he defined “one of the most significant years of my life.”
This occasion was also one of Krieger’s best memories, as he revealed to WWD last year, at the opening of the “Bob Krieger Imagine. Living through fashion and music. ’60 ’70 ’80 ’90” retrospective staged at the Palazzo Morando museum in Milan.
“My moment of glory was in 1982 with the first Time cover dedicated to Giorgio Armani, featuring a portrait I took for him. It was the first time an Italian designer was on the cover of such an important weekly and it was a consecration, like a Nobel Prize, simply amazing,” he said at that time.
In addition to Armani’s portraits, the exhibition displayed eye-catching fashion moments, including a 1980 picture of Carol Alt posing in a fringed Gucci leather look and a striking 1992 portrait of Evangelista donning a Gianni Versace yellow puffer over a signature printed shirt.
“I did a job, I have some merits but at the end what I did was to impress the merits of other people of this city… In the Seventies, we invaded the U.S. with our fashion…and I feel part of this invasion, along with Armani, Versace, Ferré and all the others because we were in this together,” he recalled at that time, mentioning a 1976 cover of the American Vogue stating “Italians are coming!”
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1936, Krieger moved to Milan in 1967 to start his photographic career. In addition to his work with fashion designers and international publications, he portrayed prominent figures across all industries, including Gianni Agnelli, Bill Gates, Marco Tronchetti Provera, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Lapo Elkann, as well as Charlotte Rampling and Rupert Everett, among others.
“We have lost a great artist and a close friend who made all those he portrayed immortal,” said Elkann.
“Bob Krieger…was one of the greatest photographers in the world but also a man of disarming simplicity. He was able to enter into a subtle confidence with ‘L’Avvocato’ [nickname of Gianni Agnelli] or with the Italian president as well as with any normal person,” said Maria Grazia Vernuccio, a longtime friend of Krieger and curator of his retrospective.
“He loved his profession viscerally. His ability to look at the world and people through a camera’s lens was unique and innate. No school, no teacher, Krieger became a photographer by accident. With his aristocratic discretion, with his delicate but determined approach, with his indisputable grace and his subtle irony, he narrated half a century of history of costume, society and fashion with an unparalleled elegance that appears in every face, in every gesture, in every dress he photographed,” she concluded.