A Visual Journey: fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld’s photographic oeuvre on show

A Visual Journey: fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld’s photographic oeuvre on show

The diverse photographic oeuvre of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is on show at the Pinacothèque de Paris. As the title suggests, the works offer a comprehensive overview of the iconic 82-year old’s world from portraits and predictably glamorous fashion shoots featuring Anna Ewers and Jessica Stam, to the first showing of a nude series of French male model Baptiste Giabiconi, followed by a beguiling collection of architectural and landscape images. 

At the core are two enormous installations, Daphnis and Chloe and The Journey of Odysseus, the latter an arresting black-and-white fresco-style installation of 15 glass panels portraying Ulysses’ journey as imagined by Lagerfeld. These should be the exhibition’s showstoppers but instead it is the more understated abstracted images - a soft-grey silkscreen showing part of the Eiffel Tower, for instance, or a sensuous curve of a wall on the Tadao Ando-designed Vitra House, that steal the limelight with their unaffected style.

Initially the eclectic range of images, including a life-size Lagerfeld floating in a surreal luminous blue glow, appears disjointed but according to long term collaborator and publisher Gerhard Steidl - who co-curated the show along with Chanel Fashion director of image, Eric Pfunder - this simply reflects the extraordinary wide range of things that interest the designer.

’Karl’s passion for photography is unlimited.  He is known for his fashion photography but in his private time walks through the streets or countryside constantly scanning for interesting things.’

It was Pfunder who is credited with starting Lagerfeld’s photographic career when in 1987 he challenged the designer to provide his own photographs for a press kit. A lack of professional training in photography is unlikely to have deterred Lagerfeld from then continuing to shoot his own advertising campaigns - he had no formal training in fashion, starting his career at the couture house Jean Patou and then designing for Chloe before going on to revitalise Chanel.

Fashion may have preceded photography for the designer but what this exhibition highlights is how he continues to employ his inquisitive mind to discover beauty whether it is a couture dress or tree. Interestingly, none of the monochromatic architectural and landscape images have been ’retouched’ in stark contrast to the colour-saturated glossy fashion photographs.

‘They are not different works,’ explains Steidl. ‘This is Karl Lagerfeld. You see what he sees.’

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