Heimat. A Sense of Belonging

by Rica Cerbarano, February 2020 (Italy)


In Italian, and in all Romance languages, the German word Heimat cannot be truly translated. Heimat is not simply “home” or “homeland”: it is a place of the heart, the place to which one belongs and which in some way defines who we are, or at least where we come from. For Peter Lindbergh, Heimat is the industrial city of Duisburg, where he grew up, a few kilometers away from Dusseldorf. Factories, fog, steel and many other shades of gray. The charm of a place stripped of its beauty has left an unmistakable mark in Lindbergh's work, teaching him to appreciate the deep layer of things and people: in a word, their personality. Peter Lindbergh, born in Leszno, Poland, in 1944, did not like to be called a fashion photographer; rather he considered himself a portraitist. His shots, deeply influenced by the aesthetics of German expressionist cinema and by the blunt realism of photographers who wrote the history of documentary photography (Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Garry Winogrand, August Sander, Paul Strand), have almost always had a unique subject: the woman. In fact, Peter Lindbergh dedicated his life to understand femininity, trying to represent it through a disarming honesty, which in the 90s helped to redefine the canons of beauty. >Lindbergh has truly left his mark on the history of fashion photography, tracing the road for his successors. If it is true that the mission of fashion photography is not that much to document the present but to lay the foundations for the construction of a future reality, Peter Lindbergh was a master: he freed women from bias and stereotypes about femininity that reigned in the fashion system in the 80s, but even more he was able to create an imaginary that far anticipated the times to come (it’s impossible to forget the editorials set in post-futuristic scenarios and the aliens he was so fond of, one of all “Towards 2000”, Vogue Italia, March 1990). Lindbergh has truly left his mark on the history of fashion photography, tracing the road for his successors: in his pictures he staged stories of ordinary women, self-confident modern heroines, proud of their bodies and their uniqueness, creating a perfect synthesis between cinematographic storytelling and photographic realism — page after page, image after image. Many of these shootings have been realised for Vogue Italia with which Lindbergh is known to have had a special relationship, a unique partnership of its kind. That’s why after his death, on September 3, 2019, Vogue Italia has published a special book dedicated to the great photographer, distributed as a supplement in the October 2019 issue. The book celebrates the relationship with the magazine through a 48-page portfolio and the testimonies of those who loved him to the last day. The intrinsic honesty in Lindbergh’s work is what has distinguished him from his colleagues, and precisely this search for honesty in opposition to artifice, this authenticity, representation without filters (Lindbergh has always opposed retouching in post-production defining it an ethical rather than aesthetic choice), is the starting point of the exhibition that Giorgio Armani dedicates to the photographer. Opening on February 22nd at Armani/Silos and titled “Heimat. At Sense of Belonging”, the exhibition covers the photographer's decades-long career, presenting well-known and lesser-known aspects of his work. The heart of the exhibition, structured in three sections, revolves around images in which the industrial environment is more than just a background: it’s the protagonist, “splendidly naked in its truth” and origin of the unique point of view of the photographer’s unmistakable aesthetic. Here it is, Peter Lindbergh's Heimat, which reveals itself proudly to lead the viewer on a three-stroke visual journey. >The exhibition highlights the extraordinary affinities between two visionary figures, whose original sense of identity has defined very personal and very high standards. Curated by Giorgio Armani in collaboration with the Peter Lindbergh Foundation, the exhibition highlights the extraordinary affinities between two visionary figures, whose original sense of identity has defined very personal and very high standards, both in art and in life. Giorgio Armani and Peter Lindbergh share values ​​that have permeated all their aesthetics and that have given rise to a close collaboration that began in the early 1980s and continued throughout their careers. The exhibition itinerary describes the complexity and immediacy of Lindbergh’s works, as well as their timelessness. The photographs taken by Peter Lindbergh have become iconic and, as such, they have probably won the challenge against time - but this is not the reason why they transcend it. We have already said it, Lindbergh did not like to call himself a fashion photographer, but what other photographic genre can completely cross the idea of time, condensing past, present and future in one shot? Every good fashion photograph is exactly this: a reference to the past, a comment on the present, an inspiration for the future. And that's exactly what Peter Lindbergh did: drawing inspiration from different languages ​​and narrative codes, he has shaped an unmistakable photographic style, where ethics and aesthetics have found a common point with the aim of redefining the role of women in society, and all this has had evident repercussions on the idea we have today of beauty and femininity. For this reason, Peter Lindbergh’s photography is timeless: a splendid, undeniable, authentic fashion photography.