by Elizabeth Doupnik, Alexandra Steigrad, Lisa Lockwood and Sharon Edelson, October 2016 (United States)
PRIVATE PLANES, BEAUTIFUL MODELS, EXOTIC LOCALES. SOUNDS LIKE A MEGABUDGET MOVIE OR THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LATEST BEST-SELLING BEACH READ. BUT, NO, IT’S THE LIFE OF A FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER.
>These photographers are some of the industry’s legends — and continue to rank among the busiest.
Those photographers are more in demand than ever, even in the age of social media. Many of them are temperamental, demanding and can travel with entourages of up to 20 people. But their ability to capture the essence of a brand or create a beautiful fashion shoot means ad industry executives and magazine editors are more than willing to overlook their peccadillos and pay their fees, which can range from $60,000 up to $125,000 and more a day. The shoot budgets alone can easily top $1 million — especially when one throws in perks for the photographer, such as a helicopter from JFK to the studio “because the photographer didn’t want to be late.” Or the time an agency had to source a live ostrich for a celebrity shoot. Or how Bruce Weber once required a pet psychic on the photo set.
But given the pressure the photographers are under to get the perfect images, no wonder they can be demanding. And the top ones remain busier than ever, as measured by a series of metrics created by WWD that included the number of campaigns shot over the last year, their social media followers and number of magazine covers. Here, WWD looks at some of the fashion world’s busiest photographers — and why they have remained that way.
>In an age of technology, where most images take shape in post-production, Peter Lindbergh stands out as a singular voice of opposition.
The German-born photographer, who often shoots in black-and-white, brings a realism to his subjects by refusing to retouch his images. The models he photographs are often scarcely made up, giving the viewer a glimpse at the women in a natural state.
“Photographers are becoming a button….It’s disastrous,” he said. “Digital for me stays exactly like film was before. The quality of the image is different, but this you can go anywhere you want with Photoshop. We do Photoshop only to make pictures not look like digital because it’s cold and awful and technical. But the biggest change is that you’re not intimate anymore with the model. That’s what is going to destroy photography and that’s what’s going to destroy photographers because they’re not going to want to be photographers anymore in 10 years, I’m sure. It has become a democratic process and that’s going nowhere, everybody talks into the picture, that’s awful. That’s the most embarrassing thing.”
While Lindbergh’s sentiments may make him sound autocratic, he’s far from it. An industry source who has worked with him described Lindbergh as “like a big teddy bear. You couldn’t ask for anyone more amazing. He likes a big hotel room and that’s all he asks for. He’s worth every penny and couldn’t be greater.”
>Instagram Followers: 470,000
>Campaigns: 24, Covers: 3
Lindbergh began his photography career in the early Seventies as an assistant to German photographer Hans Lux. He then opened his own studio in 1973, and soon joined the Stern magazine family with fellow lensmen Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Hans Feurer. His cinematic and naturalistic style garnered attention as he sought to find a new generation of models. In 1990, Lindbergh photographed Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington as a group for a British Vogue cover, which helped kick off the era of the supermodel.
Having shot for various editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, Vanity Fair, Numéro, Le Monde Magazine throughout his career, in the last year Lindbergh’s advertising work has included campaigns for L’Oréal, Giorgio Armani, Tiffany & Co., Dunhill, Cartier and Longchamp. He also shot this year’s Pirelli Calendar after having done so in 2013 and 2014.
Whether he’s shooting a celebrity or a model, wistfully smoking cigarettes, what has remained true in Lindbergh’s work is his ability to seize on the humanity of his subject. He explained how he thinks about creating an image: “I think a great image, first of all — however it looks — it has to have a purpose. And when it has a purpose, then after, you can tell what aesthetics and many other things. But I think the purpose is the most important thing. And then after the purpose, of course if it’s a boring, visually boring message, then it’s not really a great picture at all.”
This story first appeared in the October 19, 2016 issue of WWD.