Paris, 5 September 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Famed fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh has died aged 74, said his studio in Paris on Wednesday.
Lindbergh was considered one of the most influential fashion photographers of the past 40 years.
His January 1990 cover photograph for British Vogue magazine is widely seen as having kicked off the “supermodel” phenomenon of the ’90s.
It showed models Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford in simple clothing and relatively natural poses.
“I never had the idea that this was history,” he told British newspaper The Guardian in 2016. “Never for one second … I didn’t do anything, a bit of light. It came together very naturally, effortless; you never felt you were changing the world. It was all intuition.”
Evangelista was among those paying tribute to Lindbergh on Wednesday, accompanying a photo of herself with him on Instagram with the caption: “Heartbroken. R.I.P. my Peet.”
Born as Peter Brodbeck in 1944 in Nazi-occupied Poland and raised in the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr, Lindbergh worked at first as a window dresser for a local department store before enrolling in the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts.
His website quotes him as saying: “I preferred actively seeking out van Gogh’s inspirations, my idol, rather than painting the mandatory portraits and landscapes taught in Art schools…”
After a stay in Arles in France, where Van Gogh painted some of his masterworks but also suffered grave nervous breakdowns, Lindbergh set off hitchhiking around Spain and North Africa.
He eventually resumed his art training in Germany before taking up photography in Dusseldorf in 1971, according to the biography on his website.
Lindbergh had his own way of seeing fashion, and as a photographer, he looked behind the facade of his models as well as his other subjects.
“It’s not that I care about being truthful,” he told Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper in a 2017 interview, “it’s the only thing I’m interested in.”
His 1990 Vogue cover was, in fact, his second attempt at a new approach to fashion photography.
His first, taken for the US edition of Vogue in 1988 but rejected, showed six models, including Turlington, Evangelista and Patitz, on Santa Monica beach in California, standing closely together and wearing just oversized white shirts.
When the 1990 shoot took place, Crawford recalled for Vogue in 2016, “there was change in the air and Peter and [Vogue editor] Liz [Tilberis] picked up on that.”
“We weren’t photographed with a ton of hair and make-up; we were quite undone,” Crawford said. “Coming out of the ’80s, which was all big hair and boobs pushed up, it felt refreshing and new.”
After news of Lindbergh’s death broke, Crawford posted a picture of the 1990 models with the photographer on Instagram, writing that she was “honored to have known you and worked with you.”
“When [Lindbergh] shoots, it’s about the women. It’s not about the hair, makeup, or styling, really,” she wrote. “He had a way of turning your imperfections into something unique and wonderful.”
Lindbergh remained active and topical right to the end, returning to Vogue magazine to photograph 15 “trailblazing female changemakers” for the cover of a September 2019 special edition guest-edited by British royal Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.
Turlington, one of the supermodels of the 1990 cover, was again one of his subjects.
But so was teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who made a very positive impression on the previously doubtful photographer.
“She was so thoughtful, so warm, and I was determined to get a picture of her smiling,” Lindbergh told Vogue for an article about the cover. “Within two minutes she was laughing.”
Lindbergh died on Tuesday, his Instagram page said with the message: “He leaves a big void.”