Monte Packham: Do you always have the idea of a book in your head when you take photos, or does that come later? With Election Day for example, did you think, "These are photos for the Westwood campaign, but we’re going to make a book as well"?
Juergen Teller: With Westwood I just went there and did the campaign because that’s what I was there to do. But in the afternoon of the shoot (it was just one day), I said to my assistant and to Vivienne and Pamela too, "Listen, this will be a book in the end." I had a pretty clear feeling it would work as a book or some kind of catalogue.
MP: Because the pictures tell a story?
JT: Yeah, there’s a common-sense thread through it all. I’d never seen photos quite like them before: with Vivienne and Pamela, these opposite poles of people, this weird mix of flash and no flash, everything ugly and beautiful at the same time – a sort of mess. Or when I was doing the self-portraits with Charlotte Rampling for Marc Jacobs, I knew they’d become an exhibition or book. That’s when I called her and said we should do more photos – we ended up working for six months. Whether it becomes an exhibition or a book is sort of the same thing for me: something concrete at the end of it all.
MP: In the Westwood campaign there are some shots outside, say on the beach, and some inside in the laundrette – do you work out details like those in advance or do they unfold during the shoot?
JT: Sometimes I choose locations very carefully and know exactly what I’m going to do. But with Westwood I had no idea. We had to go to Los Angeles to be with Pamela because she is America in a sense, and specifically LA. She just suggested we do it in her trailer park.
MP: She lives in a trailer park?
MP: In a trailer?
JT: Yeah. It’s her laundrette too.
MP: That’s where Pamela Anderson does her laundry?
JT: Yeah, it’s her laundrette. It’s a kind of upmarket trailer park, but a trailer park nonetheless. The inside of the trailer is bigger than this room but it’s still not huge. She lives there with her two kids, one’s a teenager and the other one’s eight or ten or something. They sleep in bunk beds. There’s the kids’ bathroom and her bathroom, her bedroom, and then one big room with the kitchen, the entrance, a bit of a terrace, and the living room. It’s big enough obviously, but it’s not exactly a house. She loves it. She lives there because she’s building her house next door. But she likes it so much with all the neighbours and community, she’s going to stay there and just use the house for parties and guests. It’s right next to the beach and she’s got her golf cart and the kids have their motorbikes and surfboards. That’s their life.
MP: So the campaign was practically shot in her backyard?
JT: Yeah. That’s how I was able to do so many pictures in so many different spots in one location. There are a lot of outfit changes so it was basically a matter of going back to the trailer after a shot, changing, and moving somewhere else – all in the radius of say Düstere Strasse. I had to improvise, as Pamela didn’t want to send me pictures of where she lives up front. She just said, "Trust me, trust me, we’re gonna do it here." And we did.
MP: Did Westwood herself have much input into the book?
JT: She has a graphic design department that we work with for the ads: single pages, double pages, where the logo should go and all that. We met at my studio and again at her office, and after a while I said, "Listen, I’ve had this meeting with Gerhard [Steidl, founder of Steidl]…" She loved the idea as she was delighted with the other book we did together, which is apparently sold out.
MP: She’s a big reader herself, isn’t she?
JT: She is. So she thought it’d be good to put what we’ve done into some kind of permanent form, not just ads in magazines. But she left the book itself up to me, whether it should be called ‘Pamela and Vivienne’ or ‘Election Day’, and so on. I passed everything by her, but otherwise it was up to me.
German publisher Steidl is one of the few remaining publishing houses to control every step of the book manufacturing process – the editing, design, typography, scanning, marketing, distribution, public relations and printing. Since 1966, Steidl books have gloriously showcased the visual and textual stories of creatives including Karl Lagerfeld, William Eggleston, Ed Ruscha and Juergen Teller. Now, the time has come for the publisher to turn the spotlight on itself. In Concentric Circles, Steidl editor Monte Packham speaks to some of their most important collaborators, as well as collating his own observations on book-making and work as an editor – a project which first began in August 2008 and took a year to complete. In this extract, Packham speaks to German photographer Juergen Teller about his book Election Day, featuring Vivienne Westwood's spring/summer 2009 advertising campaign starring Pamela Anderson.
Concentric Circles, A Chronicle of Steidl Publishers by Monte Packham is available now. Get a Life by Juergen Teller published by Steidl, featuring Vivienne Westwood's S/S10 campaign, is on sale in May.
Text by Fiona Cook