Legendary Photographer Peter Lindbergh Has Died Aged 74

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Photography by Peter Lindbergh, Styling by Robbie Spencer

The iconic image-maker, whose fashion photography appeared in magazines the world over, including AnOther, has died

The legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh, known for his cinematic fashion imagery which has appeared in publications the world over, has died aged 74. The news was announced on the photographer’s Instagram account this morning: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Peter Lindbergh on September 3rd 2019, at the age of 74. He is survived by his wife Petra, his first wife Astrid, his four sons Benjamin, Jérémy, Simon, Joseph and seven grandchildren. He leaves a big void,” the post read.

Lindbergh’s dramatic style, most often shot in black and white, brought him renown in his lifetime and saw him capture some of the world’s most famous names both inside and outside of fashion. He was particularly noted for his photographs of female subjects which sought to replace the heady superficiality of the 1980s with a stripped-back celebration of women’s imperfections. “This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection,” he once said. “If you take out the fashion and the artifice, you can then see the real person.”

That said, his photography soon became commissioned for numerous fashion editorials as magazines sought to capture the contemporary woman of the 1990s. As such, he is credited with beginning the era of the supermodel, memorably bringing together Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington for the first time on the January 1990 cover of British Vogue – purportedly, the image prompted George Michael to cast the line-up in his Freedom ‘90 video. Just prior, Lindbergh had photographed Israeli model Michaela Bercu for Anna Wintour’s inaugural cover of American Vogue

Several other publications have featured the photographer’s work in the years since, including The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Interview and W. In 2017, Lindbergh photographed the cover of AnOther A/W17, featuring Solange Knowles. When asked his approach to photographing the musician and artist, he told AnOther: “There was no attempt: as free as possible. No guidelines, no plans. ‘Attempting’ sounds a bit dusty to me. The words are intuition, improvisation, talent mixed with disrespect for the good old ‘rules’.” Lindbergh has also photographed the Pirelli calendar a record three times, published ten monographs and earlier this year worked with the Duchess of Sussex, shooting the cover for her guest-edit of British Vogue’s September issue. 

Lindbergh was born in Lissa, Germany in 1944, and spent his childhood there, enrolling at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960s. “I preferred actively seeking out [Vincent] Van Gogh’s inspirations, my idol, rather than painting the mandatory portraits and landscapes taught in art schools,” he said of his time there. Van Gogh would remain a prescient inspiration; after his studies, Lindbergh moved to Arles in France, where the artist had created some of his most memorable works. Lindbergh continued to share his time between Arles, Paris and New York up until his death.

Like German compatriots Helmut NewtonGuy Bourdin and Hans Feurer, Lindbergh’s work became a valued artistic commodity, displayed in numerous galleries and exhibitions worldwide, including the Gagosian, which represents him. Alongside photography, he was also a prolific filmmaker, directing several films and documentaries, including Models (1999), The Film (1991), Pina Bausch, der Fensterputzer (2001), Everywhere At Once (2007) and Inner VoIces (1999), which won the Best Documentary Prize at Toronto International Film Festival. Lindbergh’s films have also been shown at the Cannes and Tribeca film festivals.

Lindbergh leaves behind an indelible mark on fashion and popular culture. A recent exhibition of his work, shown in Rotterdam in 2017, was titled Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography. It seems a fitting surmise of the artist, who throughout his career diverted from the unachievable glamour and perfection of eras past, towards raw humanity, and truth. Asked why his 2017 Pirelli calendar did not feature nude or semi-clad female subjects, previously the tradition, he said: “my photographs reveal another kind of naked, more important than body parts.”