The fashion world is mourning the loss of one of its greats. The era-defining photographer Peter Lindbergh has died aged 74.
Lindbergh lensed some of the most iconic fashion images of the past 40 years, and worked prolifically right up to the end. Most recently he shot the groundbreaking British Vogue “Forces for Change” September issue cover featuring multiple portraits, which cemented a new era of activism in fashion. The guest editor of that landmark issue, HRH the Duchess of Sussex chose Lindbergh because of his ability to capture the essence of his subjects with beauty, strength and vulnerability. “I want to see freckles,” she told him and he obliged, telling Vogue, “I hate retouching. I hate make-up. I always say take the make-up off.”
His signature black and white images celebrated the natural beauty of his subjects, but Lindbergh was politicised and knew the power of his images to change hearts, minds and entrenched beauty standards. “This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.” His timeless pictures have always had a powerful impact.
Lindbergh may be best remembered for his January 1990 British Vogue cover of the original nineties supermodels, Naomi, Linda, Tatjana, Christy and Cindy wearing Giorgio di Sant’Angelo tops and Levi‘s jeans. The young models had never been photographed together before and the resulting image – natural, joyful, fresh – signalled a shift away from the high artifice and big hair of eighties fashion. The image inspired George Michael to cast the women in his Freedom 90 video, so igniting the supermodel era. Lindbergh’s take on the Pirelli Calendar (he shot three, most recently in 2017) saw it shift from showing women as sexual objects to celebrating their unique strength, power and beauty.
After studying painting, the German born creative took up photography in 1971 and became one of Stern’s regular contributors alongside Helmut Newton. His career spanned 48 years, but Lindbergh’s unvarnished aesthetic has particular resonance today, in an era when authenticity and transparency are newly prized.
by Claudia Croft