AND THEN SHE HAD BECOME A WOMAN

by Beatrice Zamponi, October 2017 (Italy)


Kate Moss who is transformed before his lens, Kate Winslet who asks for a portrayal of her hands: no photographer has been better able than Peter Lindbergh to free the female image from the myth of youth and perfection. On the eve of a major exhibition, here he tells us how. On the poster for the exhibition entitled “A Different Vision on Fashion Photography”, shown in the Venaria Reale Palace in Turin starting this month and until 4 February 2018, Peter Lindbergh provocatively chooses Kate Moss, a symbol of eternal adolescence, immature beauty, and poetically portrays her marked by time. A new Amazon with her hair gathered up in a masculine hairstyle and her narrow body in the pose of a street kid looking at us proudly, but also with the melancholy and depth of experience in her eyes. >The German photographer, famous for having described woman in her most intimate truth and having stripped her of every superfluous accessory, frees the female image from the myth of perfection and youth. "Kate had taken a break of several months from work," Lindbergh recounts. "When she started again, although no one had noticed, a major change had taken place: she had become a woman. It was she who told me she felt ready for a different project, that she was tired of playing at being a little girl. Other photographers have always tried to keep the same timeless image of her; to my mind such an attempt would have been absolutely ridiculous and even rather boring." FROM THE START, YOU HAVE ALWAYS REFUSED TO USE RETOUCHING OF THE FACE AND BODY IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY. WHY? It was an ethical and not merely an aesthetic choice. The indiscriminate use of retouching ~~has accustomed~~ us to consider real characters deprived of all their humanity; men and women from whose face the marks of time and experience have been erased. I am convinced that true beauty is born only from self-acceptance, from the awareness of who we really are: it's a question of identity. IN 1988 YOU SHOT A PHOTO WHICH WOULD BECOME AN ICON OF YOUR WORK: SIX GIRLS SHOWN ON THE BEACH WITHOUT MAKEUP, DRESSED ONLY IN A SIMPLE WHITE SHIRT. AN IMAGE OF BAFFLING SOBRIETY, IN COMPLETE CONTRAST WITH THE ARTIFICIAL FEMALE AESTHETIC OF THE TIME. The model that I have always had in mind was my girlfriends at art school dressed in jeans, T-shirt and tennis shoes. Practical women, who had plans and ambitions to achieve in life. I chose the beach because it is a flat and uniform backdrop, it allowed me to concentrate on what really interested me in a woman: the face. >"NOT USING RETOUCHING OF THE FACE IS AN ETHICAL AND NOT MERELY AN AESTHETIC CHOICE." GROUP PICTURES ARE A CONSTANT FEATURE OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY. HAS CHOOSING TO HAVE SO MANY DIFFERENT WOMEN IN THE SAME PICTURE BEEN A WAY OF EMPHASIZING A PLURAL, NONCONFORMIST VISION OF BEAUTY? When in 1990 I was asked for a cover for “British Vogue” which was to give an example of my personal vision of woman, I explained that I could not portray a single girl, because what I was looking for was a new purpose, a new determination of women; it could not concern merely a single person, but a whole generation. IN THE SEARCH FOR AUTHENTICITY AND UTTER SIMPLICITY, BLACK AND WHITE HAS BEEN YOUR INSTRUMENT OF CHOICE. Although man perceives the real world in colour, for me black and white has always been linked to the deep truth of the image, to its most secret meaning. In this I was influenced by American photography in the years of the Great Depression. The frank realism of the faces portrayed by documentaries such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans fired my imagination. >"Women are more open, courageous, have more nerve and take on far more risks compared with men." MANY BACKDROPS TO YOUR PHOTOS ARE FORMED OF VARIOUS LAYERS: LARGE CURTAINS, CHAIRS OR SCATTERED TOOLS. THE IMPRESSION IS THAT OF A SET UNDERGOING CONTINUAL TRANSFORMATION. WHY? It is a way to avoid a sense of perfection and closing. On the contrary, I like to operate in situations of ~~freedom,~~ continuity, where action is guided by change. YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE TO HAVE PHOTOGRAPHED THE PIRELLI CALENDAR THREE TIMES, ALWAYS PROPOSING A NONCONVENTIONAL VIEW. IN 2002 YOU CHOSE YOUNG ACTRESSES, PHOTOGRAPHING THEM WITHOUT UNDRESSING THEM, WHILE THE 2017 EDITION WAS DEDICATED TO THE BEAUTY OF THE VARIOUS AGES OF WOMAN. I never thought much about their age when I was doing the casting. I chose each one because I loved them as women. The success of the project depended on group cohesion and energy; with many of them we have been friends for twenty-five years. They all wanted to support the idea of a beauty free of false myths, which faces up to reality and does not propose a "soft", edulcorated version of a forty- or fifty-year-old woman. Kate Winslet even insisted on having photographs taken of her hands, which are a notoriously reliable indicator of age. PETER LOVES WOMEN, LOVES THEM DEEPLY. THE RELATIONSHIP IS NOT ON THE EROTIC LEVEL, BUT ON AN INTIMATE LEVEL. THIS IS WHAT MANY OF YOUR MUSES SAY OF YOU, AND ALSO YOUR FRIEND WIM WENDERS, WHO COMPARES YOU WITH THE PROTAGONIST IN TRUFFAUT'S FILM “THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN”. Women are more open, courageous, have more nerve and take on far more risks compared with men. I look at them for what they really are, perhaps this is what leads them to abandon themselves to me. WHAT IS AGE FOR YOU? Flexibility and breadth of thought. Today, at over seventy, my approach to life is simpler, I can dedicate myself completely to experimenting. This leads me to find myself in very stimulating situations, chosen separately, where everything has meaning.