World-renowned photographer Peter Lindbergh dies, aged 74

The artist is credited with having helped to launch the so-called era of the supermodel

German photographer Peter Lindbergh poses at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. AFP 
German photographer Peter Lindbergh poses at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. AFP 

Peter Lindbergh may not be a name familiar to everyone, but chances are that if you have picked up a fashion magazine in the past 30 years, you will have seen the work of this gifted German photographer.

His style is distinctively grainy and shot in black and white, and he often set up studio backdrops in incongruous places, such as the beach. He photographed many of the world's most famous models, and is heralded with helping launch the so-called era of the supermodel.

Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista were all lensed by Lindbergh; he caught them in unguarded, often windswept moments, that captured an innocent beauty.

His death was announced via his Instagram account on Wednesday morning:

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Peter Lindbergh on September 3, 2019, at the age of 74," the caption reads.

It continues: "He is survived by his wife Petra, his first wife Astrid, his four sons Benjamin, Jeremy, Simon and Joseph, and seven grandchildren. He leaves a big void.”

Evangelista replied to the comment with 26 broken heart emojis.

Lindbergh recently photographed the 15 cover stars for the Duchess of Sussex co-edited September issue of British Vogue, including climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Born to German parents in Leszno, Poland in 1944, a city then under German occupation, Lindbergh went on to study at the Berlin Academy of Fine Art, before moving to Paris in 1978 to take up photography.

He quickly found his style, and rarely shot in colour, preferring the moody atmosphere of black and white.

Lindbergh spent his career rejecting glossy, heavily retouched imagery, and instead preferred to let the natural beauty of his subjects shine through.

He once said such practice "should be the responsibility of photographers today: to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection".

He shot the Pirelli Calender three times, in 1996, 2002 and 2017, shooting actresses instead of models. At a press conference to launch the 2017 edition, he hoped to "remind everyone that there's a beauty that's more real and truthful and not manipulated by commercial or any other interests".

He did away with make-up and styling for much of the shoot, declaring that "beauty speaks about individuality, courage to be yourself, and your very own sensibility – that's my definition of a woman today. That's the goal of the calendar – to show the woman. And not this stretched, manipulated, emptied [person] you see in the magazines today."

One of Lindbergh’s most famous images dates from the 1990s and shows supermodels Campbell, Evangelista, Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz captured in grainy sepia, on an empty New York street, wearing jeans and dance tops. It perfectly sums up Lindbergh’s contribution to photography. While others crave excess and perfection, Lindbergh found beauty in absolute simplicity.

With retouching and cosmetic surgery practically standard across many walks of life, perhaps now more than ever we need an artist like Lindbergh, who passionately believed that people are beautiful enough just as they are.

Updated: September 5, 2019 06:29 AM


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