Art & Photography / Lessons to Learn

Lessons We Can Learn From Juergen Teller

Siegerflieger, Teller's exuberant love letter to football and family, teaches us some invaluable lessons

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Siegerflieger© Juergen Teller

Summer of 2014 saw the Nationalmannschaft win the World Cup in Brazil, an unforgettable event for German football fans, including Juergen Teller. For the occasion, the lauded fashion photographer – a wild-eyed soccer fanatic to the point of commemorating his team’s triumph in his very first (temporary) tattoo – decided to celebrate the occasion with a spontaneous new book.

Appropriately titled Siegerflieger – literally "The Victors’ Plane," the name given to the German national team’s customised aircraft – the volume is a blend of Teller's greatest loves: family, photography and football. From boozy nights with his students in Nuremberg and bratwurst pig-outs to casual fitness sessions in his hometown of Bubenreuth, relaxed rounds of chess to an overload of football watching, the photographer opens the door to his eventful summer. While Siegerflieger may look like a stranger’s awkward family photo album, underneath the naturalness, passion and emotion of this diary-like series lies some more profound truths. Here, we bring you the five lessons we’ve learnt while watching football with Juergen Teller.

1. Let yourself shine
Given Teller's oeuvre, it comes with no surprise to stumble across some nudity in the book. From a bare-breasted girl supporting a wine glass in her bra and a naked man using a public telephone, to a topless Stella Tennant and, of course, an unclothed Teller, some pictures make you wonder how these people got caught up into all this insanity. But let this be an encouragement to not take yourself too seriously because, in the words of the illustrious Thomas Szasz, “when a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.”

2. Value your family
United by a bond that goes beyond blood, Teller and his son Ed are captured in ecstatic embraces, kissing and screaming at the top of their lungs as they watch the final game live on TV. But while largely dedicated to the energetic, testosterone-fuelled relationship between father and son, the series is filled with key  moments between Teller and his family. From group portraits with his mother (who drives him to school when he goes back to Germany to teach some classes) to family gatherings and cycling trips, the book stresses the importance of finding time for your loved ones.

3. Embrace comfort food
We live in a society where there isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about our diet. And if we do indulge in some unhealthy treats, we’re immediately floored with the deepest sense of regret. But fear not, Teller is here to remind you that while it’s great to keep the motivation high and to look our best and healthiest, there are times when only a succulent bratwurst or a bowl of greasy fries will truly hit the spot.

4. Be a bit gross
For his fourth lesson, Teller teaches us that whether it’s putting an octopus on your head, painting your body Smurf blue, walking around town in flippers, showing off your fat rolls or letting your genitals hang out, you should always let yourself have fun, even if that means calling attention to yourself and being a bit gross.

5. Don’t be afraid of selfies
Selfie mania may simply be a manifestation of old-fashioned narcissism, but they are also the modern way of capturing noteworthy moments and making memories. From hangover morning car rides to embarrassingly tight close-ups, Teller is more concerned with the authenticity of the experience than the prettiness of the composition. The book reminds us that life is volatile, and that rather than stage events in order to get the perfect Instagram shot, we should enjoy them as they come. Photographs are just a way to remember happy moments, and it's good to get yourself in the frame.

Siegerflieger is out now, published by Steidl.