MUSA Y CREADOR
by Maria Contreras & Sophie Djerjal, December 2002 (Spain)
MUSE AND CREATOR
«An accessory to emotions» is how actress Milla Jovovich describes Peter Lindbergh. Their paths first crossed 13 years ago, and today the actress’s curvaceous beauty is the star attraction of an attractive and elegant exhibition by the German photographer at the 213 Gallery in Paris. Their talents have been drawn together in an exhibition that symbolises the genius of the visual poet who has redefined fashion photography. Known as ‘the man who loves women’ and considered a storyteller, the visual force of his work and the contrasts he achieves between black and white are derived from the alchemy between realism and deep emotion.
This is the name of Lindbergh’s first book, published in 1996 by Schrimer/Mosel, which brought together some of the most famous models in history. Although he used more than these ten models alone, these are the ‘muses’ that were chosen for the book. Christy, Naomi, Linda and Tatjana – no need for a surname – were the highlight of a photo shoot which has become legendary. It was the first time that four fashion icons appeared for the first time together, and Lindbergh’s photos helped to launch the phenomenon of the ‘supermodels’ which took hold of fashion in the Eighties. The volume is completed with his best pictures of Kate Moss, of whom Lindbergh stated, «I found her very beautiful when she went from the grunge baby stage to that of a true woman». Amber Valetta – whose fashion shoot with Lindbergh for ‘Vogue Italia’ had an enormous impact. Helena Christensen, whose first cover for Vogue is also Lindbergh’s work; and other mythic top models such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Kristen McMenamy.
LINDBERGH THE GOD
Peter Lindbergh publishes his legendary images and exhibits the photos of his muse, Milla Jovovich. Vogue talks to them.
>"Peter is an expert at making people feel good, and is very attentive." - Milla Jovovich
«I first met Milla Jovovich when she was thirteen. Even then, she was extremely sharp, an artist right down to her toes, creative in the true sense of the word. She is extraordinary, intense and full of energy, always ready and able to take on a new challenge. It is amazing that such a person should exist. When she walks into a room, the whole atmosphere changes. She inspires you, and there is always something to learn from her.» That’s how the ~~German photographer Peter~~ Lindbergh describes the woman who has for years been his muse and his friend, the Ukrainian actress and model, Milla Jovovich. Her curvaceous beauty is the star attraction in the exhibition «Milla by Peter Lindbergh», an exhibition of 18 large-format images taken through the lens of the now legendary photographer during a fashion shoot for ‘Vogue Italia’. An unmissable event for all lovers of the aestheticism and sobriety that characterise Lindbergh’s style, the exhibition can be seen until 19th January at Gallery 213, in Paris’ Boulevard Raspail.
The actress, both surprised and flattered, returns his compliments with a smile. «I have a very special relationship with Peter. He’s an expert at making people feel good, and is very attentive. I respect that trait in him a great deal, and what’s more, he’s very open and warm with other people. We’re very comfortable together, and, both in life and at work, he is someone very close to me. He’s got a very affectionate personality, and I love him for it.»
Professionally, the actress considers him one of the greatest names in fashion photography due to his ability to penetrate to the heart of the people he is photographing: «He’s a photographer with incredible talent and he’s got an incredible eye. He immediately understands every situation and knows how to look at a woman. He also has a wonderful sense of humour and in some photographs, we see his funny side. I like that, he’s never too serious, at a time when everyone seems to be getting far too serious.» Their long professional relationship, which has materialised through numerous publicity campaigns and fashion shoots, goes a step further with this exhibition, which the actress considers a real gift. «I can’t wait to see the exhibition, I feel very honoured. At the beginning, I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t imagined how strong our friendship was.» Milla also admires Lindbergh for the way in which he understands fashion, which, for the actress, has become an important pillar of present-day society: «Fashion photographers represent a lifestyle, and they photograph clothes. But someone like Peter doesn’t only see the clothes, he makes a story out of each shoot and this, combined with his personality, makes him an artist. Fashion is important, it is a symbol of our time, of freedom, a fragment of civilisation. Fashion is also the symbol of what we are. This is why Peter’s photos are so interesting; if we consider that some of them are twenty years old and are the symbol of the people he photographed, we realise they are very realistic.»
The exhibition has also been used as the launch pad for the book, Peter Lindbergh: Stories, the introduction to which is written by the German film maker, Wim Wenders, also very close to the actress – with whom he worked in The Million Dollar Hotel -, and his fellow countryman Lindbergh. The lavish volume is published by Arena Editions, and is a compilation of the best photos – both published and unpublished – taken by the creator of the big-name top models in recent decades. The list is simply unbelievable, and includes names like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Stéphanie Seymour, Kristen McMenamy, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and others; all, inevitably, are now symbols of the great decade of the supermodels.
>"An artist is someone who searches for, finds and takes what they rest haven’t seen." - Peter Lindbergh
From the perspective afforded by his experience, there are two types of photographer, according to Peter: «Nowadays, the really creative ones are probably one out of every hundred. The rest are nothing of the sort; they see images, they copy and they don’t even know what they’re doing.»
«An artist,» he continues, «is someone who searches for, finds and takes what they rest haven’t seen. ~~Gursky, for example.~~ When you see his pictures, you say, ‘I’ve passed the same place hundreds of times and I’ve never seen what he’s seen.’ That is an artist.» Many of us think that this definition is perfectly tailored to his own way of working. And the fact is that Peter Lindbergh is an artist in capital letters, one whom people call « the poet of glamour ». Unlike many of his fellow-countrymen, his beginnings came a little late. He decided to dedicate himself fully to photography at 27, and after two years’ apprenticeship as an assistant to Hans Lux, he began to work for himself. He soon revealed a number of traits of his personality as a photographer, amongst which, his preference for black and white photos.
His career has always been connected with fashion; in 1978, he embarked upon his first shoots for the magazine Stern, and from then on continued to work with the best international publications: W, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the French, English, American and Italian editions of Vogue, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Bazaar. He also made history in advertising through his magnificent campaigns for Giorgio Armani, Prada, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Damiani, Hugo Boss and others. His photographs show a clear, profound image, rich in feelings, which identify him through their realism and simplicity.
The composition of the stories he creates with his models make him a popular and respected man in his profession. «You can have a specific point of view, but women are always women, beautiful, strong and simple,» he declares, whilst showing a group photo with Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Stéphanie Seymour and Cindy Crawford. The picture is many years old now, but, as he acknowledges, «if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.» His passion for his work can be explained as follows: «A friend recently asked me why I always need to take photos. The process is like this: first you quickly get close to someone, then you learn a technique and you find film images; you achieve mutual understanding with that person, as if you knew her, and after half an hour, you’re her best friend.» His definition of photography is as simple as it is visionary. «It is similar to falling in love with a woman, but without the consequences. You’re lucky to be close to people you love and can express your point of view about women, it’s wonderful.»
Enthusiastic and dynamic, for Peter, the photographer must above all express his point of view: «At first you devote yourself to photography, just as you could devote yourself to being a lawyer. You follow your instinct, you do things, it all follows a direction. At first, you’re searching, you don’t really know what for, and gradually you realise that you can express a great many things with photography.» «My pictures aren’t political in nature,» he concludes, «it’s a passion but also the production of a piece of work. What really gets me going is the contact with people, it’s like a drug. When I’m in a shoot, the simple emotion of living it is incredible.»