Peter Lindbergh made an indelible contribution to the field of fashion photography. Born Peter Brodbeck in German-occupied Poland in 1944, Lindbergh was one of the great disruptors of high-gloss fashion photography, giving his mostly black-and-white editorials a signature gritty elegance. His stunning portraits of top models, typically devoid of heavy make-up, portrayed a raw beauty.
These images graced the advertising campaigns of many leading fashion houses, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Valentino and the editorial pages of the most iconic fashion magazines, including L’Officiel. His influence extended beyond fashion photography, collaborating on a range of music and film projects, and he shot the legendary Pirelli calendar three times. Sadly, Peter passed away on September 3rd at the age of 74.
Here, we caught up with supermodels from around the world including Elle Macpherson, Ling Tan, Gail Elliott to recall their precious memories and stories in front of Lindbergh’s lens.
Supermodel Elle Macpherson on her experience with Lindbergh since the 80s:
Aussie-born Elle worked with Lindbergh variously over three decades and was photographed by him most recently for an IWC watch campaign in 2011.
“I first worked with Peter in 1982. His images of me helped catapult my career in Europe. He remains one of the most iconic and gifted photographers of all time. I loved the way he saw the strength, intelligence and vulnerability in women. He was in a league of his visionary own.”
American model Veronica Webb on Lindbergh’s genius:
“Peter Lindbergh [was] one of the funniest and kindest people I’ve ever worked with in fashion. He was an awesome person whose work pushed the medium of fashion photography into the realm of cinema. His images were larger than life and for those us who knew him and all of us who admire his work his influence as an artist will only continue to grow. Rest in peace Peter.”
British-born Gail Elliott recalls a very special cover shoot with Peter:
“The last shoot I did with Peter was for a French magazine. They had an idea to shoot me as Renee, the photographer Jaques Henri Lartigue’sgirlfriend, so we flew to Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc Capes Antibes, in the South of France. It was off-season so we had the hotel to ourselves. Stephane Marias did make-up and Julian Dys did hair. The story was published in France as planned but over the next few months publications in eight other countries bought and published it.
Peter told me it was one of his absolute favourite cover stories ever and that he’d shot me in such a way he didn't think he could do any better - it was so special for him that he could never shoot me again….and he didn't. In a way I was thrilled he loved the shoot so much but also extremely disappointed that I’d never work with him again.
Peter had a unique way of how he approached photography. He didn't just take a photo, he created a set, lighting…a story. Whether he was shooting a catalogue - I once shot a fur catalogue with he and Grace Coddington - or a shoot for Vogue, he made women look and feel powerful but emotional all at the same time.”
Carré’s most memorable Lindbergh moment:
“He was just amazing always to work with. Such an extraordinary visionary and artist and truly dedicated to representing women in their truth.His legacy is his body of work and his celebration of all aspects of the feminine yet never everin a degrading manner. Always in a light of pure truth. His legacy is his story telling.
He captured the frowning teen I was and the complete nerd and goofball. All me. And he just had a way to be present and invite me to play. To express. To tell my story. Thank you dear Peter.”
Kara Young remembers her favourite Lindbergh moment:
“My favorite shot he took of me is smiling with a gigantic Russian-looking hat on. We did a shoot on the boardwalk [and] I had a sequin vest and silky pants. I was strolling along and Peter sighed (as if bored) and that is not what you want to hear when you’re working! So I tossed the pants, looked away and walked along with the vest and knickers. We all laughed and wrapped and knew we had a magical shoot. Peter seemed to love it. Being a photographer you need to draw a whole mood, a whole story out of the subject. What I emote is from him. He told you a story with his photos.”
Steevie Van der Veen
Dutch supermodel Steevie recalls meeting Peter for the first time:
“Peter was probably the first big photographer I worked with realizing who he was.... when he walked in to greet me, he just said ‘Steevie, I am so happy to finally be working with you’... he had just stolen the words out of my mouth! Peter had the incredible way of catching not the perfection of beauty but the truth of it. I was, and still am, considered a classic beauty, Peter caught a sexier side of me...”
Herrera with Lindbergh on her series of iconic Giorgio Armani campaigns:
“So sad to hear the news of the passing of the legendary and gentle Peter Lindbergh. I remember working with him like it was yesterday. He was a true gentleman. Will always hold my memory of working with him, a truly special one!”
English model Charlotte Connoley recalls shooting with Peter in Paris:
“I was just about to turn 17 when I found myself on an Italian Vogue shoot with Peter Lindbergh. I was a young girl from the East Sussex countryside in England and I didn’t know just how iconic and prolific it meant to be a part of this shoot at the time. I turned up in Paris with scruffy Puma trainers, stonewashed denim jeans and a cropped Paul Smith T-shirt.
We shot in a beautiful disused train station where the whole roof was made out of glass so the light-flooded in and it became a stunning studio with pigeons roosting and cooing on the rafters around us. There was a huge number of black couture gowns, heels and jewellery in the dressing room. When I arrived Erin O’Connor and Karen Elson among others were already on set or in hair and make-up. I remember thick black eyebrows were painted on and short black cropped wigs were put on.
Once on set Peter ushered me into position and I remember him being kind and patient, making me laugh with his German accent and his father figure role. He generally made me feel comfortable which was a huge relief as some of the photographers of that calibre in those days had huge egos and came across incredibly arrogant, but Peter was there to make women feel comfortable, confident and loved.
At the end of the shoot when all the wigs were taken off and the make-up was smudged around our faces he had us try on a piece of lingerie and took us in turn to a blank wall and this is where his creativity shone! Just a blank wall, greasy pulled back hair, freckles and a smudgy black eye and incredible light.
I contacted him years later to ask for a copy of my portrait as a gift for my husband as a wedding present which very kindly he sent with a note. The print hangs in our home to this day and we treasure the note he sent with it. A great loss to the fashion world.”
Malaysian Supermodel Ling Tan on working with Peter:
“Peter Lindbergh was one of the greatest fashion photographers of our time. I feel truly humble for having been able to work with him on some amazing projects. When I first worked with Peter, I spoke very little English. I was very focused and looking too serious. Peter would mime, dance and make funny expressions to make me smile, so I could give him the beautiful photos he envisioned. He made it fun to be on set working with him.”
Thank you, Peter, for your creative genius and love in fashion.