A DIFFERENT VISION ON FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY: INTERVIEW WITH THE CURATOR THIERRY-MAXIME LORIOT
by Beatrice Zamponi, October 2017 (Italy)
Peter Lindbergh's imagination has not been defined by conventional standards; he did not grow up among the cultural stimulation of a large city or surrounded by a luxuriant nature, but in one of the most industrialized regions of Germany. In Duisburg the landscape was dominated by steel mills, coal mines and large factories; here the photographer learned to find harmony and beauty even in apparent desolation. And then the grey smoke of the chimney stacks was transformed into the silvery tones of his black-and-white photos, the imposing industrial architecture became a majestic set design and the dirty faces of miners an inspiration for the dusty makeup of muses and models. By reworking his past, Lindbergh succeeded in restoring it through a new and completely individual vision.
>"Peter Lindbergh's work stimulates reflection on society and its values, on the role of woman and the idea of beauty, on what is photography itself, so it goes far beyond fashion." - Thierry-Maxime Loriot
This is what Peter Lindbergh tells us. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography, the exhibition dedicated to him, presented until 4 February in the Venaria Palace, a grandiose complex at the gates of Turin, a masterpiece of architecture and landscaping, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Two hundred photos in seven sections retrace the great master's poetry from 1978 until today. We talk about this with the curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot.
TO START WITH THE TITLE, WHY DID HE CHOOSE IT?
Photography exhibitions are often too minimalist, abstract; on the contrary, I wanted to tell a story. Peter Lindbergh's work stimulates reflection on society and its values, on the role of woman and the idea of beauty, on what is photography itself, so it goes far beyond fashion.
This is why, for someone looking at them today, his photos of twenty or thirty years ago have not lost any of their relevance and power, and still have universal value.
FASHION DESIGNER REI KAWAKUBO IDENTIFIES AS THE KEY FACTOR IN LINDBERGH'S PHOTOGRAPHY THE HUMAN VISION; ABOVE ALL, AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL. THE EXHIBITION SHARES THIS INTERPRETATION.
I have endeavoured to highlight specifically the honesty with which he looks at his subjects; whether they be actors, transgender models or celebrities, the approach does not change; it is work based solely on relationships and contacts. In his photography there is no hierarchy and there are no connotations to identify the character socially; they are all placed on the same level.
ONE OF THE FOCAL POINTS OF THE SHOW IS THE TWENTY-FIVE FASHION HOUSES WITH WHICH THE PHOTOGRAPHER HAS WORKED OVER THE YEARS. LINDBERGH HAS MANAGED TO INTERPRET THE IMAGINATION AND SPECIFICITY OF EACH OF THEM WITHOUT EVER CHANGING HIS OWN LANGUAGE.
The Versace woman and the Armani woman are opposed on a stylistic level, but share the same power, independence and boldness. What enabled Lindbergh to be chosen by designers so different from one another was the search for a profound female identity; a truly common starting point apart from aesthetics.
>"Lindbergh is fascinated by the idea of the body as an instrument. He does the same with models: the shots are never static." - Thierry-Maxime Loriot
THE STUDIES ON DANCE, BODY TENSION AND MOVEMENT ARE ANOTHER CORE THEME.
His innumerable works with dancers and choreographers, from Pina Bausch to Blanca Li, have always been focused on dynamism. Lindbergh is fascinated by the idea of the body as an instrument. He does the same with models: the shots are never static, he follows them moving in front of the camera without obstructing the flow of improvisation and creation.
AGAIN WITH REGARD TO THE BODY, IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE HOW, IN LINDBERGH'S WORK, THE THEME OF NUDITY IS COMPLETELY UNCOUPLED FROM EROTICISM, BUT RATHER REPRESENTS A FURTHER POSSIBILITY FOR PROFOUND CONTEMPLATION OF HUMAN BEINGS AND THEIR FORMS.
Looking at one of his nudes is like being in front of a statue by Brancusi or Giacometti. These are human silhouettes and at the same time virtually abstract, but never idealized. The bodies that he portrays are indeed always imperfect, they may show scars, scratches or wounds. He does not look for the perfect features that we would all like to have: for him those are really not very interesting.
LINDBERGH WRITES DOWN HIS THOUGHTS AND NOTES BEFORE AND AFTER EACH PHOTO SHOOT. THIS RESEARCH HELPS HIM CLARIFY HIS PURPOSE AND CHECK WHETHER HIS OBJECTIVE HAS BEEN ACHIEVED. THE EXHIBITION ALSO PAYS GREAT ATTENTION TO THIS PARTICULAR ASPECT OF HIS WORK.
For me this is a very precious theme, because it reveals a completely personal practice. Although Lindbergh arrives on the shoot with precise ideas, further clarified in his writing, he is always prepared to let himself be surprised or inspired by the unforeseen. He is very free, even taking all the risks of improvisation. His notes also have a documentary value: for example, those concerning the photo poster of the film "The Hunger", with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, are, unintentionally, a real piece of history of the customs and pop culture of the time.
THE EXHIBITION THEN FOCUSES ON LINDBERGH'S OBSESSION WITH SCIENCE FICTION RECOUNTED IN THE SECTION ENTITLED "THE UNKNOWN". BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS THE UNKNOWN FOR HIM? APART FROM BEING A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, IT IS ALSO APPARENTLY A METAPHOR FOR HIS TIRELESS PASSION FOR DISCOVERY, HIGHLIGHTING HOW HE HAS ALWAYS RETAINED THE ENTHUSIASM OF A CHILD.
The section brings together the many shoots devoted to telling about UFOs, paranoia and conspiracy theories. The theme of the unknown is definitely related to his continual desire to experiment, to change course. And he also does this in practice: it was when producing some of these stories that, for example, he decided to try shooting in colour. Many sequences also show how in every German there is always irony and an ability to downplay things and not take oneself too seriously. The most absurd idea can be dealt with successfully.
LASTLY THE SUPERMODELS AND THE NEW IMAGE OF EMANCIPATED WOMAN WHICH LINDBERGH DEFINED IN THE 1980s. AMONG SO MANY NONCONVENTIONAL BEAUTIES WITH WHOM HE LOVED TO WORK, WHO, IN YOUR OPINION, HAS BEST DESCRIBED THE CHANGE THAT HE INTRODUCED?
I would say Milla Jovovich; she is probably the woman most photographed together with Linda Evangelista and now Mariacarla Boscono. Women who are not merely models, but who can suddenly be transformed into dramatic actresses or dancers. The collaboration with Milla began when she was a young girl and was never interrupted; they have experienced really everything together. At the same time I think that every woman could become his subject; for him beauty is not an abstraction, it exists only in the truth of reality.