Obituary Peter Lindbergh (1944–2019)
Born in 1944, the German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh died on 3 September 2019 at the age of 74 in Paris, the French capital where his international career also began.
In a recent interview with German Vogue about his career, Lindbergh remarked: “Never think you've done anything great” – a rare attitude in the fashion world, you might say. He didn't have much time for the conventions of the industry, and vehemently rejected unrealistic body ideals as well as Photoshop. With their nudity and eroticism, the photographs by his colleague Helmut Newton are provocative, Peter Lindbergh’s, on the other hand, arouse emotions with brutal honesty and empathy.
Lindbergh seldom gave his clients what they wanted – but as soon as he presented his photographs to them, they were in agreement. In Germany, he quickly progressed to become a top photographer; some of his works were published in form as early as 1977, together with an interview. In 1988, in her first year as editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour commissioned him for his first Vogue cover, and further commissions for well-known magazines soon followed. While fashion was sometimes flashy, sometimes dazzling, Lindbergh remained simple and impressive with his mostly black-and-white photographs. In his Interview with form Lindbergh advocated stripping back his photography to essentials, both in terms of motifs and equipment. Lindbergh's famous photo series of supermodels Estelle Lefébure, Karen Alexander, Rachel Williams, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Christy Turlington, laughing on the beach in Santa Monica, clad only in white men's shirts is representative of this style. In his work, fashion gave way to the person wearing the clothes rather than the other way around. The women in his photographs were not reduced to a face or body and sexualized: Lindbergh knew how to tease out the inner self from his models and thus capture character, posture, and mood. The iconic images he created in the process no doubt contributed to models like Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell becoming the first ever supermodels in the 1990s.
Actors, politicians, models, and most recently the climate activist Greta Thunberg: Lindbergh photographed numerous celebrities and captured their personalities – the expressiveness of his images will be hard to surpass.