A New Book Captures Dior's Archival Pieces In An Astonishing New Light
by Ellie Pithers, November 2019 (United Kingdom)
70 YEARS OF DIOR ARCHIVAL PIECES, PHOTOGRAPHED IN NEW YORK'S TIMES SQUARE: THIS WAS THE LATE PETER LINDBERGH'S ENERGISING CONCEPT FOR A NEW BOOK – AND, AS HIS FREQUENT COLLABORATOR JUAN GATTI TELLS VOGUE, IT HAS PRODUCED SOME OF HIS MOST EVOCATIVE IMAGES.
The late Peter Lindbergh was nothing if not ambitious. Still, his latest Taschen tome, Peter Lindbergh. Dior, which sadly proved to be one of his last, was something of an epic undertaking, even by the German photographer's exacting standards. The concept was simple. Lindbergh, a longtime collaborator of Dior's, was determined to showcase the house's sprawling archive – spanning 70 years of dramatic looks – in a new light. Specifically: in New York's Times Square. He rounded up a bevy of beauties, including Carolyn Murphy, Alek Wek and Amber Valletta, and had an unprecedented number of archival looks (over 80) transported from Dior's temperature-controlled archives in France to New York.
The resulting two-volume book, which includes everything from John Galliano's '90s-era haute couture pieces to an original 1947 ~~Christian~~ Dior Bar jacket, is packed with more than 100 images that sing with emotion. Juan Gatti, the photographer's longtime collaborator and the designer of the book, tells Vogue why Lindbergh is one of the greats.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST MEET PETER LINDBERGH, AND WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSION OF THE GERMAN PHOTOGRAPHER?
I met Peter around 1985. I was at that time the art director of Loewe and trying to modernise the brand. I called him to do the campaign. At that time, Peter was the favourite photographer of all avant-garde designers including Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and Azzedine Alaïa. I was a superfan of his, and I loved his photos. We took the photos at Café de Flore, one of his favourite spots in Paris, with Yasmin Le Bon, and his wonderful team, Stephane [Marais, the make-up artist] and Julien [d'Ys, the hair stylist] and the stylist Sophie Hicks – really the dream team of the epoch. The first meeting was great: all super affectionate and kind and Peter was a kind of warm and attentive teddy bear with great sensitivity and huge energy, a kind of Asterix of photography, with a great sense of humour and ease. Since that day we worked together continuously. We have already made seven books, two Pirelli calendars, several exhibitions, numerous advertising campaigns, catalogues, and, when I was art director at Vogue Italia, several memorable editorials.
WHAT STRUCK YOU AS UNUSUAL ABOUT HIS WORK?
I think what marks your work, your photos, is a great humanity; your approach to the woman you are photographing is ~~very~~ particular and intimate, and your photos convey a great emotion. Peter worked with very subtle things: a glance, the position of a hand, a shadow, the fold of a dress and the beauty of the imperfect.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HIS WORK FOR DIOR THROUGH THE YEARS?
Undoubtedly, Dior has always been a strong presence in the fashion world, and Peter had the opportunity to photograph Dior on several occasions and the work of its different designers. He always had the ability and talent to bring those costumes to his field and endow them with his own sensitivity. Proof of this are his latest photos in Taschen’s Peter Lindbergh. Dior, where Peter has moved the best of all Dior collections from Avenue Montaigne [in Paris] to Times Square [in New York] in an epic mobilization.
HOW DID PETER FEEL ABOUT FASHION?
It's funny, but now that you ask me, I've realised that in the 35 years that we've been working together I've never had a conversation about fashion with Peter. We’ve talked about a thousand things: of art, films, photography of the life, of love – but never fashionable [things]. I still think his favourite outfit was a white shirt.
HOW DID YOU AND PETER WORK AS A TEAM? WHAT WERE YOUR RELATIVE STRENGTHS?
I believe that our joint work has always been characterised by great respect and mutual affection. The truth is that there were always works in which we had fun; each book was an adventure. It was like a journey we took together. I have always loved his photos, and for me, it was really a gift to work with this material from the edition to the sequence: a challenge and at the same time exciting. Of course, we had differences of opinion, because we were both very obsessive in our métier, but they were solved by the great sense of humour that was the constant in our work.
IS THERE ONE MOMENT OF HUMOUR THAT STANDS OUT FROM YOUR MANY YEARS SPENT WORKING TOGETHER?
I remember once, I was working for Vogue Italia, and I had to meet Peter in the Bahamas to make a catalogue for some clients. As I started directly from Milan, Franca [Sozzani, the late editor-in-chief] gives me a suitcase full of white shirts and tells me, “While you are there, make a similar page for the magazine.” One day, when we were finishing the catalogue project, we pretended to be leaving for our bungalows. Instead, as naughty children, hidden from the clients, we went to the beach – Peter, Linda [Evangelista], Stephane, Julien and I. It was almost night and Peter made those sublime close-ups of Linda with different expressions. Among these is a close-up of Linda crying and screaming. These pictures have become icons in the photography world, [but] it wasn't more than 20 magical minutes where Peter, Linda, Stephan and Julien... They were enlightened and gave their maximum, great talent.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN AESTHETIC AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?
I guess I have an identifiable style, but I always try to adapt my aesthetic to the project. In general, I work for creative people: photographers, film directors, designers, musicians, etc and I am not interested in putting my style before theirs – that would be a way to compete with them. I am interested in entering their world and ensuring my work accompanies and ~~enhances~~ their style and aesthetics. The design is an applied art and the content has to have a coherence.
WHAT FIRST PIQUED YOUR INTEREST IN DESIGN?
I think my interest in design began in my adolescence as a Beaux-Arts student. With the arrival of pop, the Beatles, [Andy] Warhol and psychedelic art I realised that I was more interested in making posters than in making paintings. I started making posters and album covers for music groups of friends and some illustrations for fashion magazines.
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT PUTTING THIS BOOK TOGETHER?
I greatly enjoyed making this book for several reasons, because the material seemed to me more than good. But what I enjoyed the most is having convinced Peter to use his photos in colour – that was not his idea, but seeing how special those colour photos were, I could not resist to put them in the book. That Peter agreed and we both think we're happy about that decision... Really, this is a very important book and now, for me, very significant.
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP PETER’S LEGACY AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
Peter's legacy in photography is immeasurable apart from marking and defining an era. His contribution to fashion photography is one of emotion, humanity, beauty, created from honesty, from lack of artifice, from the truth – and from a great love of and respect for women.