Undeniably, there is a before and an after Peter Lindbergh. Through his photography, he contributed to a new image of femininity without artifice. Following Germany, Italy and Spain, Brussels will host his extensive retrospective Untold Stories for five months.
The super models did not have any super-powers. They did not claim to be saving the world. They were content with being beautiful and making people dream. It was a different era, before the immediacy of social media. In the 1980s, the pages of magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and Rolling Stone raised models such as Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Helena Christensen to the status of icons. One of the architects of that metamorphosis in culture and the media was, undeniably, the photographer Peter Lindbergh.
Prior to this era, according to him, the women you saw in magazines, dressed up and made up, represented everything he did not like. “I was at the beach in Los Angeles with a few unknown models. We made some very simple images. I was very happy with them. When the director of American Vogue saw my photos, he scratched his head, and said: ‘Thank you, young man. Goodbye!’. Six months later, Anna Wintour took over the magazine. She saw the photographs and they corresponded exactly to what she wanted to do.”
Peter Lindbergh grew up in Duisburg in the industrial gloom of the Ruhr. His early surroundings surely played a part in his devotion to the raw expressiveness of black and white in his quest for beauty without artifice, which he spent his whole life pursuing. A photographer concerned with capturing moments and with light, rather than with ornamentation and staging, his style and vision helped to change the expression of femininity. “Almost all my photos are portraits. When people say that a portrait is ‘totally him or totally her,’ that’s ridiculous. A portrait is never the person. In another photograph, you would see a different person. What you capture, I think, is the relationship with the person you are photographing. It’s an exchange and that’s what you see in the image.”
It would be an injustice, however, to reduce four decades of work to the 1980s alone. This retrospective covers Lindbergh’s whole career from its beginnings in the 1980s to his last images in 2019. This selection, which the artist actively collaborated on before his death, features 152 photographs, many of which have never been seen before. Without worrying about the chronology, he intuitively put together photographs, videos, and large-format prints like a puzzle to create new associations and interpretations of his work whereby the time and the buzz no longer have any importance.
Peter Lindbergh’s retrospective Untold Stories is on view at Espace Vanderborght from 15/12 to 14/5, peterlindbergh-brussels.com