In memoriam: Peter Lindbergh (1944-2019)

The German fashion photographer who mastered monochrome, and refused to bow to a glossy form of perfection, has passed away aged 74

Photographer Peter Lindbergh during his exhibition ‘From Fashion to Reality’.
Photographer Peter Lindbergh during his exhibition ‘From Fashion to Reality’ at Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung on 11 April 2017 in Munich, Germany. The exhibition was an homage to Lindbergh’s multifaceted oeuvre from 1978. Photography: Gisela Schober / Getty Images
(Image credit: Gisela Schober / Getty Images)

Touching tributes are flooding in for renowned German photographer Peter Lindbergh, who passed away on 3 September 2019. He was famed for celebrating the raw beauty of an untouched image over a 50 year career that spanned the silver screen, museum exhibitions, and magazine covers.

Born in German-occupied Poland in November 1944, Lindbergh grew up in Duisburg, West Germany; the vast beaches and the industrial settings of which are thought to have inspired his oeuvre. He studied at Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960s, where he is known to have hitchhiked to Arles in the footsteps of his idol, Vincent van Gogh. He eventually went on to study abstract art at the College of Art in Krefeld, where he drew influence from the conceptual art movement, and presented his first exhibition at the avant-garde Galerie Denise René gallery. Moving to Düsseldorf in 1971, he eventually opened his own studio in 1973. Natively well known, he joined Stern magazine in 1973 – the same year as photographer Helmut Newton.

Lindbergh drew inspiration from a diverse pool of street photographers, photojournalists, and documentary filmmakers (think, Dorothea Lange and Henri Cartier-Bresson), and became known for injecting humanism and realism into fashion photography. His most famed images (which have reached iconic status) are his signature black and white photographs of 1990s supermodels, like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington Burns and Linda Evangelista. The latter led tributes on Instagram by captioning an archival photograph: ‘Heartbroken. R.I.P. my Peet’. Elsewhere on the platform, actress Charlize Theron referenced the photographer’s ‘consistent kindness, warmth, and incredible sense of humour’, for which he was renowned industry-wide.

Referencing the diversity of his practise, Lindbergh joined forces with titan of 20th-century sculpture Alberto Giacometti in 2017. Through his lens, Giacometti’s works appear scarred, brutalised, yet alive, with what the photographer called at the time their ‘perfect imperfections’. It’s a collection of photographs that typified Lindbergh’s approach, where the action in front and behind the camera was an intimate duet. ‘A photograph has nothing to do with the person you are photographing,’ Lindbergh told Wallpaper* in 2017. ‘It has to do with what comes out of the person when you’re with them, and what you can give them.’

Lindbergh is survived by his wife Petra, his first wife Astrid, his four sons Benjamin, Jérémy, Simon, Joseph and seven grandchildren.

Peter Lindbergh sitting with camera in had at a press conference.

Lindbergh attends a press conference to promote his exhibition ‘On Street' at C/O Berlin on 24 September 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Photography: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

(Image credit: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.