Known for his memorable cinematic images, Peter Lindbergh is recognised as one of the most influential contemporary photographers. Born in Lissa (Germany) in 1944, he spent his childhood in Duisburg (North Rhine-Westphalia).
He worked as a window dresser for a local department store and enrolled the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960’s. He remembers these years: “I preferred actively seeking out van Gogh’s inspirations, my idol, rather than painting the mandatory portraits and landscapes taught in Art schools…”.
Inspired by the work of the Dutch painter, he moved to Arles for almost a year, and then embarked a journey hitchhiking through Spain and North Africa. He later studied free painting at the College of Art in Krefeld. Influenced by Joseph Kosuth and the Conceptual movement, he is invited before graduating to present his work at the renowned avant-garde Galerie Denise René – Hans Mayer in 1969. After moving to Düsseldorf in 1971, he turned his attention to photography and worked for two years assisting German photographer Hans Lux, before opening his own studio in 1973. Becoming well known in his native country, he joined the Stern magazine family along with –photography legends Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Hans Feurer, and moved to Paris in 1978 to pursue his career.
Considered a pioneer in photography, he introduced a form of new realism by redefining the standards of beauty with timeless images. His humanist approach and idealisation of women sets him apart from the other photographers as he privileges the soul and the personality. He changed drastically the standards of the fashion photography in times of excessive retouching considering that there is something else that makes a person interesting, beyond their age. He explains: “This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.” His singular vision, presents them in their pure state, “in all honesty”, avoiding all stereotypes as he privileges a face with hardly any make-up, in a baring that enhances the authenticity and the natural beauty of his women.
He offered a new interpretation of women post-1980’s without paying too much attention to the clothes, considering that: “If you take out the fashion and the artifice, you can then see the real person.” Lindbergh says. British journalist Suzy Menkes points out that the German photographer is: “Refusing to bow to glossy perfection is Peter Lindbergh’s trademark – the essence of the images that look into each person’s unvarnished soul, however familiar or famous the sitter.”
Lindbergh is the first photographer to include a narrative in his fashion series, his storytelling brought a new vision of art and fashion photography. Over the years, he has created images that marked the history of photography, characterised by a minimalist approach of the post-modernist photography. Back in 1988, Lindbergh garnered international acclaim by showing a new generation of models all dressed in white shirts that he had recently discovered and launched their careers. A year later, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz, young models then, were photographed together for the first time by him for British Vogue’s legendary January 1990 cover.
Pop singer George Michael, the initiator of the movement of the Supermodels, was inspired by the photographs taken by Lindbergh for Vogue, to create the iconic video for his song Freedom 90, followed by Gianni Versace, marking the beginning of the era of the celebrity-models, which redefined the image of the new modern woman. In the May 2016 issue of the prestigious magazine Art Forum, Lindbergh declares in his interview with journalist Isabel Flower that “a fashion photographer should contribute to defining the image of the contemporary woman or man in their time, to reflect a certain social or human reality. how surrealistic is today’s commercial agenda to retouch all signs of life and of experience, to retouch the very personal truth of the face itself?”
His work is best known for his simple and revealing portraits, his still lives and his strong influences from early German Cinema and industrial surroundings of his childhood, dance and cabarets, but also landscapes and outer space. Lindbergh works with the most prestigious fashion brands and magazines since the late 1970’s, including international editions of Vogue, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar US, Wall Street Journal Magazine, The Face, Visionaire, Interview and W. In 2016, Lindbergh was commissioned for a record third time to create the 2017 edition of the Pirelli calendar, being the first one to photograph it more than twice in the fifty years history of the iconic calendar. He previously photographed the 1996 and 2002 editions.
His work is part of the permanent collections of many Fine Arts museums around the world and has also been shown in prestigious museums and galleries. Among these are the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), as well as solo exhibitions at Hamburger Banhof (Berlin), Bunkamura Museum of Art (Tokyo) and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow). The exhibition ‘A Different Vision on Fashion Photography’, initiated by the Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2016, was then displayed at the Kunsthalle München and in Turin’s Venaria Reale. In 2017, he took part in the exhibition ‘Alberto Giacometti Beyond Bronze’ presented at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, followed by ‘Shadow And Substance’ at the Gagosian Gallery in London.
Lindbergh has directed a number of critically acclaimed films and documentaries: Models, The Film (1991); Inner VoIces (1999) which won the Best Documentary Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2000; Pina Bausch, der Fensterputzer (2001) and Everywhere At Once(2007), which was narrated by Jeanne Moreau and presented at the Cannes and Tribeca Film Festivals.
He currently lives between Paris, Arles and New York.