Here Comes The Suit
It seems invidious and discriminatory - and, frankly, almost impossible - to choose a fashion photographer whose oeuvre exemplif ies the spirit of L’Uomo
Vogue over the l ast half a century.
But in as much as L’Uomo has never sought it, Peter Lindbergh has never, in over 40 years, delivered the expected. The magazine published some of his earliest pictures, and time and again L’Uomo and its sister magazine Vogue Italia have provided exactly the right arena for his striking images, always high on drama and atmosphere.
His signature style has been predicated on strong, high-contrast prints, saturated in black and white - the more effective to underscore the atmosphere he brings to his mise-en-scène. They appear before us, s trange and d islocated, unbalanced and otherworldly l ike stills f rom an unrealized movie.
And that is surely the intention. Lindbergh contrives scenarios in which his models ‘perform’ for his l ens; he i s a s much f ilm d irector and r ingmaster as cameraman and photographer. Nothing is straightforward and in the carefully constructed narratives t here a re l ayers of meaning beneath t he a rtif ice. As the historian Martin Harrison observed: “Lindbergh’s impulse to make strange his photographs ensures that they resist simplistic interpretations.” Their f ragmented and disembodied qualities g ive them their power.
Lindbergh’s connection to the cinema is inescapable. His grainy black and white images of models in thrall to the ‘machine age’, for example, are perfectly in tune with pioneers of German Expressionism in painting and in f ilm. Raised in the Ruhr Valley, the hub of Germany’s industrial heartland, he discovered i n Berlin the f ilms of G.W. Pabst, Von Sternberg, and Fritz Lang, and it is perhaps the dystopian landscape of Lang’s Metropolis (1927) that has best informed Lindbergh’s vision of the world. The future he envisions for the masses has been a bleak and monochromatic one, a scenario he continues still to re-imagine in so many varied and vivid ways, not least for Here Comes the
Suit. His f riend t he auteur Wim Wenders summed it up best: “The world of fashion photography is glamorous but we’ve gotten used to its shiny surface. Peter’s photographs are utterly dif ferent. They defy all laws of gravity in this realm and redef ine the very world they depict.”