Peter Lindbergh, the fashion photographer celebrated for championing supermodels’ imperfections, has carried out a very novel and exciting collaboration – with one of the titans of 20th-century sculpture.
Alberto Giacometti’s starkly silhouetted sculptures and knife-headed busts, which have become so familiar to so many, are now on show at Gagosian’s Britannia Street outpost as you have never seen them before. In their portraits by Lindbergh, they are shown close-up, blown-up. Their rawness distilled by light, they are immediate and brought to life by a spark in the eye or a blur of focus. They appear scarred, brutalised, yet alive, with what Lindbergh calls their ‘perfect imperfections’.
The German photographer, who has had numerous Vogue covers and won awards for his cinematic filmmaking, was invited by the Kunsthalle, Zurich to make the series in 2016. The Kunsthalle owns the largest Giacometti collection in the world and wanted to challenge people with fresh ways of looking at a vitally important body of work, which the public may have become too familiar or too comfortable with.
Amazingly Lindbergh says he didn’t know a lot about Giacometti when he made his first visit to meet his unusual new models. ‘When I arrived and gathered the Giacometti busts and bronzes into a group I had the feeling that they’re not objects, or sculptures, they’re alive, talking to each other like a group of school children. I kept asking myself, how is that possible?’
Installation view of ‘Substance and Shadow’ at Gagosian
He continues: ‘So much of that one man is in there. You feel that his life is in there. Intuitively I began to imagine what Giacometti was doing and thinking. What I wanted to capture was the relation between him and the object.’
Pointing to one of the most powerful images in the series, of Buste de Diego (1964-5), I suggest to Lindbergh that Giacometti wasn’t interested in portraiture so much as capturing the experience of life emerging from and vanishing into space.
‘But that’s exactly like portraiture!’ he exclaims. ‘Sometimes I show a photograph to somebody and they go, “That’s him! You’ve captured him!” I say that’s impossible. How can anyone do that? He is so complex this person, and tomorrow he will be a completely different person.
Lindbergh muses, ‘A photograph has nothing to do with the person you are photographing. It has to do with what comes out of the person when you’re with them, and what you can give them.’