Supermodels and the Supernatural: Peter Lindbergh's "Known and 'The Unknown'" Exhibition at Galleria Carla Sozzani in Milan
by Kerry Olsen, September 2012
If you want a behind-the-scenes, no-holds barred insight into an artist’s work, Peter Lindbergh is your man. Like his narrative pictures, this iconic photographer is a born storyteller. Accompanied by his eldest son Benjamin (and the sound of drilling), Lindbergh is a formidable tour guide as he lets loose with anecdotes from his latest retrospective “Known and ‘The Unknown’” opening today at Galleria Carla Sozzani, nestled within Corso Como 10 in Milan.
“We captured the explosion in the first shot, so we were left with seven bombs that couldn’t be transported. We blew them up after the shoot in the desert,” he says about a work featuring Fred Ward and Guinevere Van Seenus from his well-documented science fiction series, which may have made for the most unique wrap party ever. Referring to another image featuring two women (Olya Ivanisevic and Romina Lanaro) holding a baby, and wearing masks with an apocalyptic feel, the German photographer reveals that the infant was actually a doll, albeit a very lifelike one. “It would have been too cruel to put a real child in a mask,” says the horrified father of four sons.
>“The Unknown” is a fascinating collision between aliens, flying saucers, and that even stranger place, Hollywood. The show — first unveiled last year at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing — resembles the storyboard of a retro sci-fi flick.
Unlike now, when waves of photographers get their kicks from the street, Lindbergh looked to the sky, or rather above it, capturing extraterrestrial myths and glamorizing them, in this case starring supernatural beauties Amber Valletta, Angela Lindvall, and Karen Elson, and featuring enigmatic cameos from Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, and Robin Wright.
Back on planet Earth, and downstairs in the “Known” world are the supermodels, and the second part of Lindbergh’s retrospective story, although notions of alien-life forms still linger. “They were strange girls nobody else wanted to work with,” says the German photographer with a laugh, referring to some of his seminal shots that made household names of Tatjana Patitz, Nadja Auermann, and Milla Jovovich. Lindbergh also shot the denim-clad Michaela Bercu for Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover in 1988. “There were only about six or seven people on the shoot; today it would be something like 40. We left the jeans in the picture so they could be cropped... it wasn’t meant to be a big revolution.”
Like very expensive wallpaper, one side of the gallery is (almost) entirely papered with the out-of-this world faces of a generation—Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, et al—and those oft-imitated black-and-white Comme des Garçons campaigns shot on blustery northern French beaches (warm only from the tenth to the eleventh of August, according to the photographer.) “I used to build sand castles [while my father was working],” Benjamin Lindbergh quietly adds, proving that although a picture may be worth a thousand words, an audio guide is, at times, pretty hard to beat.