Pin It
Lara Horst

Satisfyingly Unorthodox: The Legacy of Horst Diekgerdes

The visionary photographer and long-standing AnOther Magazine collaborator unveils his inaugural anthology...

The front and back cover of Horst Diekgerdes’ eponymous book pictures the Brazilian supermodel Isabeli Fontana. Stood stoically against a blood-red wall – hands on hips, elbows at sharp right angles – she appears both unsettling and alluringly provocative. The eye is instantly drawn to the triptych of monochrome silk-strewn slits that frame her clavicles, before fixating on her fiendish stare, which reveals two gleaming white sclerae.

This powerful image, originally taken for the A/W05 issue of AnOther Magazine, epitomises the German-born photographer’s aesthetic: progressive, sensual and satisfyingly unorthodox. “I like eccentricity, a softer, more obscure sexuality. I would never want anything to appear vulgar,” says Diekgerdes of the shot, when he speaks to AnOther from his studio in Zurich. Fontana is just one of many lauded women who feature in his invigorating new monograph, a carefully considered edit of almost 20 years worth of photographs. “I suppose, in a way, this book is an ode to women, women that I love and admire, women I appreciate,” he adds warmly.

Interspersed between avant-garde shoots, iconic ad campaigns – such as his sun-bleached portrayal of Chloé’s S/S01 collection – and portraits of creative luminaries including Erykah Badu and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are personal images; offering intimate and insightful fragments of the man behind the lens. Most notably, a candid photo with his mother in 1987 and, taken in Paris 2013, a naked torso entangled in a mishmash of striped bed sheets. “I wanted the book to feel honest and rounded, and to show how real life observations and events influence my work. This is my view of the world,” he explains, adding, “and after two decades, I’m still as passionate about taking pictures as I was when I first started out.”

Below, in advance of his personal book signing at Colette in Paris tomorrow, Diekgerdes offers a greater insight into the tome and selects his photographic highlights…

On compiling the monograph
“It’s taken me a while to put together – almost two years from start to finish. The most difficult part about creating it was the editing process, which is to be expected for a photographer [laughs]! I worked on the concept and edit with the art director, Beda Ackermann. I felt that he could help me to fuse all of the different elements of my photography, those visual experimentations, in a new way. He encouraged me to add in my own private photographic mementos too.”

On his past, present, and future... 
“It felt like the right time to go through everything again, to look at the broad spectrum of photographs I had taken over the years. Not just to reflect on the work, but also to see how I can move forwards from here. The art direction and the introduction from Jefferson [Hack] actually allowed me to think about the future and re-focus. It has been an amazing journey.”

On why photography is a collaborative process
“Every image represents a specific time, not just physically, but emotionally – all of that translates into the final photograph. I have worked with some incredible stylists who have a strong vision too, from Katy England to Cathy Edwards and Alistair Mackie, all very special moments.”

On his photographic highlights from the book
“It’s so difficult to choose, if you were to ask me tomorrow I would probably change my mind! But, I love the Lara Stone shoot I did for AnOther [S/S07 issue], where she's licking an ice-cream with sprinkles. It’s sexuality presented in a witty, playful and soft way. Sex with a smile [laughs]! There’s also a portrait I took of Charlotte Gainsbourg once – her face is slightly tilted to the camera, allowing herself to be open and show a little vulnerability, she’s amazing, so delicate. You cannot plan these kind of moments, they just happen.”

Horst Diekgerdes by Horst Diekgerdes is available now.