Someone once described Peter Lindbergh’s work as a collection of love letters to women he considers beautiful. Because Lindbergh always felt like an outsider in both the fashion and photography worlds, he felt free of the mediums’ conceptions. He channeled the influence of cinema: his deeply saturated black and white photographs work together narratively, going beyond the purpose of simple advertisement.
His transcendence of individual mediums is rooted in his varied life experiences. After growing up in the harsh realities of post-war Germany, Lindbergh went roving. At the age of 17, Lindbergh left school and Germany, traveling to Switzerland to begin his new career as a department store window designer. He began art school but left, preferring to learn from daily life in southern France. He ended up hitchhiking across southern Europe and North Africa for two years before returning to school to receive an education as a painter and conceptual artist. Once he began working though, he felt disconnected from the world. He abandoned this career and decided to take a crack at photography. At last, his work quickly took off.
Through his career-long occupation with women, Lindbergh played an active role in re-inventing their position in the world of fashion. From the beginning, he enjoyed twisting the traditional archetypes of women in photography, reinventing notions of glamour, femininity, and seduction. His women appear undeniably beautiful, yet
strong, striking, and handsome — typically with their intense gaze fixed firmly on the viewer.
“Lindbergh’s photographs, in spite of the apparent contradiction, provide some of the most concrete and confident depictions of contemporary women. His models may not necessarily comply with the putative ‘typical’ or ‘average’ women of today, but they nevertheless operate as cyphers for a type of women who has attained a demonstrable degree of freedom and independence.” (Martin Harrisson, in the introduction to Images of Women).
Editor’s Note: An exhibition of Peter Lindbergh’s work will be showing at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles from February 27 to April 19, 2014.