Peter Lindbergh, revolutionary German fashion photographer, dies at 74

Peter Lindbergh, the German photographer credited with launching the careers of supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista, has died at 74, his family told AFP Wednesday.

Peter Lindbergh, revolutionary German fashion photographer, dies at 74
Peter Lindbergh at the press conference for an exhibition of his photographs in Munich in 2017. Photo: DPA

Lindbergh's stark black-and-white images of models and stars staring straight at the camera, which played with light and shadow, helped overturn glossy standards of beauty and fashion in the 1980s and 1990s.

Lindbergh was born in Lissa in western Poland in 1944. When he was a few months old his family fled the advance of Russian troops to southern Germany.

He grew up in the steel town of Duisburg, which he recalled as “the worst industrial, depressive part of Germany”, only discovering the art world when he later moved to Berlin.

He shot the first ad campaign for the Volkswagen Golf and also worked with Stern magazine — renowned for its photography — before moving to Paris in the late 1970s.

It was his 1988 photo of a group of young women in white shirts and tousled hair on a beach in Malibu — a far cry from the big make-up, big-hair studio shoots of the day — that helped define his stark, cinematic style.

The new faces included Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz, all of whom would go on to become stars of the international catwalks.

The German singer Helene Fischer graces a magazine cover of the German edition of Vogue in November 2018. All photos of her were by Peter Lindbergh. Photo: DPA

'No beauty without truth'

The Vogue editor at the time, who commissioned the shoot, was unhappy with the clean, natural look and tossed the picture aside.

But it was unearthed by Anna Wintour, who took over the magazine's helm a few months later and promptly hired Lindbergh for her first cover shoot.

Lindbergh also worked with Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar and The New Yorker magazine.

His aversion to touching up photographs to hide imperfections was legendary.

“There is no beauty without truth. All this fake making up of a person into something that is not them cannot be beautiful. It is just ridiculous,” he said in November 2016 when launching the 2017 Pirelli calendar.

For that feminist-friendly edition of a calendar long synonymous with langorous nudes, he roped in veteran stars Helen Mirren and Charlotte Rampling — aged 71 and 70 — as “a cry against the terror of perfection and youth”.

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Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.