Peter Lindberg: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography


A couple of weeks ago I visited the show “A Different Vision on Fashion Photography”of photographer Peter Lindbergh in museum “de Kunsthal” in Rotterdam (Holland). This great show is the first major retrospective of his work. From Rotterdam it will travel further on to other well known museums across the globe.


Peter Lindbergh was born in Poland in 1944. His parents fled to Germany at the end of WWII. Peter grew up in Duisburg, a city in the industrial “Ruhr” area. In 1973 he decided to change his name from Peter Brodbeck to Peter Lindbergh because there  was another photographer with the name Peter Brodbeck in the city where he lived . His career started to take off when he did an assignment for the German magazine “Stern”. This assignment led to work for the French edition of Marie-Claire magazine and later for Vogue.


Peter Lindbergh is the first fashion photographer whose work is as much about the models, as about the fashion they wear, you could actually say that his work is even more about the models than the fashion. wp-pl-hc

He actively involves the models in the process. This becomes obvious from the various videos of his shoots that can be found on Youtube. All models in Peter Lindbergh’s work have a personality. This is of course in stark contrast with the work of most other fashion photographers, where the model usually serves as a glorified mannequin. His models are also real people in a physical sense: he uses make-up very selectively and does not mask the spots and pimples in the faces of his models (although his assistants sometimes do this afterwards in order not to upset his clients). Another  interesting feature of his work are that his pictures never become erotic, even if the models are partly undressed. Also the notion of movement is very important in his work.

Peter Lindbergh has an outspoken view of women and photography. In May 2016 he declared in Art Forum:”If photographers are responsible for creating or reflecting an image of women in society, then, I must say, there is only one way for the future, and this is to define women as strong and independent. This should be the responsibility of photographers today: to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.”


He is not fond of smiling models in his pictures, he sees this as banal. One of the things he has in common with the work of Anton Corbijn is that the subjects in his photos often have a thoughtful expression. Another powerful feature of his work is that he has the ability to suggest an archetypical story on the basis of a single frame.


wp-pl-photo-groupPeter Lindbergh pre-dominantly photographs in black & white, which is highly unusual for a fashion photographer. The reason for this is because he feels inspired by the work of the photographers who recorded the economic crisis in the US during the 1930’s like Walker Evans.

Peter Lindbergh switched to digital in the mid 2000’s. He uses Photoshop to keep his pictures in the same recognisable grainy style that made him famous when he still took photographs with analogue equipment. In that sense, his pictures remind the viewers again of the work of Anton Corbijn, although the pictures of the latter are considerably more grainy. Despite this use of grain, Peter Lindbergh’s pictures possess a very rich texture.


As to equipment, he does not like to use tripods, and prefers to take pictures by hand. wp-pl-limixWhen he was making analogue pictures he predominantly used a Pentax 67, a Konica Hexar and Nikon F SLRs. Recently he seems to work mostly with a Nikon 810, mainly in combination with the 70-200 mm lens, although there are also pictures of him using the Lumix 1 micro-four thirds camera with an external viewfinder.

He also takes a lot of pictures during his shoots; the various clips of Peter Lindbergh at work on Youtube show an intensive use of the motor drive. He photographs in RAW and seems to use the black-white preferences of the camera’s to check his pictures.

Peter Lindbergh does not like too much post-production, according to him there is no beauty without the truth and he thinks that too much post production is often a sign that photographers do not understand light sufficiently.


There are three sceneries Peter Lindbergh often uses. The first is the industrial scenery Peter Lindbergh knows from his youth in Duisburg. wp-pl-beachHe has taken a number of pictures of models against the backdrop of machines.  He clearly recognises that this originates from his roots; In an interview he stated that his pictures would have looked different if he had been born in Venice.

A second theme is the beach, which may be attributed to Peter Lindbergh spending a significant part of his holidays in Noordwijk, a seaside resort in the Netherlands.

Thirdly scenery he uses cities, predominantly New York and Paris. Paris is the city where Peter Lindbergh lives and he calls it the city that “has never lost its magic”.


Peter Lindbergh says he is inspired by art and art books. Apparently has owns a lot of them. In an interview he said: “I have a very big apartment in Paris but you can’t really move around there anymore; piles of books everywhere. I don’t want any more books. I have too many books; sometimes I have to buy another copy of a book that I know I have somewhere in my house or office because I can’t find it.”.

The exhibition and the catalogue


The exposition “A Different Vision on Fashion Photography” is very well designed. In various halls his work is shown on an extremely large format. Also interesting are several objects on display, for instance some of his notebooks and analogue cameras.


wp-pl-bookThe catalogue of the exposition is great … in more aspects than one. It is a hardcover with a size of 6,4 x 25,4 x 34,3 cm,  contains more than 500 pages and weighs a ton. The print quality is great and the essays are relevant and to the point.

A must have for lovers of photography books like me.





Credits: Picture of Peter Lindbergh by Donata-Wenders, Pictures of the models by Peter Lindbergh, Picture of the book by Taschen, Colour portrait of Peter Lindbergh by Getty Images en Pictures of the exhibition by me.


Räbeliechtliumzug Thalwil – Turnip walk Thalwil


Every year Swiss children in the German speaking part of Switzerland welcome the winter in the first half of November with a traditional Räbeliechtliumzug. General assumption is that the origins of this tradition can be traced back to the early 1920s. The reason turnips were chosen seems to be due to the fact that they are amongst the last vegetables that are harvested during the year.

The traditional Räbeliechtliumzug also takes place in the village of Thalwil where I live. The children carve out their turnips at school or at home. On the night of the parade they light candles in them and walk with their classes through Thalwil. It is a great event with a very nice atmosphere. It starts and ends at the Chilbiplatz where a brassband is playing and food and drinks are being sold.

All pictures are taken with an Olympus OMD-EM10 camera in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 35mm f/1.8 fixed lens. It was pitch dark, so the lightning conditions were far from ideal for micro four third sensors. The pictures were taken without flash, mostly with 6400 iso (hence the noise level) in RAW and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom. 


Searching for a stone


Two years ago my mother-in-law passed away. She was great wife, mother, friend and a true Christian. In one of the speeches at her funeral, a bible text ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near’ (Philippians 4:5) was quoted. This text says all about her: her gentleness was known to all who knew her.

She was very artistic, both in an active, as well as in a passive sense, and she also loved to travel. One of the countries to which she often traveled and spent a lot of time in was Switzerland. For years she stayed many times in Furna, a small village in Graubünden.

Although she is buried in the Netherlands, as a family we decided to put a stone on her grave from Switzerland in honor of our happy memories there. My son, a local friend and myself went to the Furner Bach (Brook of Furna) to pick a stone and transport it to the Netherlands.

This proved to be quite an undertaking; the stone we ultimately chose was quite heavy and was located a long way from the point where we had to leave the car. Fortunately enough our local friend knew a solution: from a couple of planks he made an improvised cross, which enabled us to carry the stone with the three of us back to the car.

All pictures are taken with an Olympus OMD-EM10 camera in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/4-5.6 ED lens. The circumstances were challenging as far as the light was concerned. This was due to the fact that the dynamic range that needed to be covered was huge: parts of the valley in which the brook was located were exposed to direct sunlight, other parts completely in the shadow.  All pictures were taken in RAW and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom.








Robert Capa: When two books go to war…

Without the shadow of a doubt, Robert Capa is the most famous war photographer of all times.
Born as a jew in Hungary in 1913, Capa left his home country in 1931 for Berlin to escape the oppressive right-wing and antisemitic dictatorship that reigned Hungary during that time. It was in Berlin that he learned photography. He moved to Paris in 1933 due to the rise of Nazism in Germany and it was here that he changed his name for commercial reasons from André Friedmann to Robert Capa. In Paris  his  career as a photographer took off with his pictures of the Civil War in Spain. In 1939 he fled to the US and would operate out of this country until the end of World War II.
During his working life he covered five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the war between Japan and China, World War II, the first Arab-Israeli War and the early days of the War in Indochina. He was a true socialite and was well acquainted with a number of famous artists, including writers like Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and John Steinbeck, film directors Joris Ivens (with whom he travelled through China) and John Huston, as well as actors like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (with whom he was romantically involved).
In 1947, Capa took the inititative to found Magnum Photos in Paris, the famous and first cooperative photo agency, which exists until this day. In 1954 he died when he stepped up a land mine in Vietnam.

Robert Capa’s biography reads like an itinerary

Capa - Blood and ChampagneAll in all Capa’s life seems to offer enough ingredients to create a great story, which is unfortunately exactly what Alex Kershaw fails to do in his biography of Capa titled ‘Blood and Champagne’. There are three reasons for this.
First all the biggest issue is that the book fails to bring Capa alive as a human being. Readers are told exactly where Capa was, when and with whom during his life, but does  not bring these events to live. In that sense the book looks more like an  itinerary than a biography.
Capa as a person is depicted as a charming dare-devil, gambler, womanizer and liar. The problem is that the book fails to explain the why, except hinting at the fact that Capa might have inherited these traits from his father.
Secondly the book covers Capa’s life until the end of WWII in a very detailed manner, but pays less attention to his life after World War II until his death in 1954. This is a pity because this is the period where he founded Magnum and travelled with Steinbeck through the USSR. Although both events are covered, they do not come to live. It is also the period where took pictures of the Dutch Royal family, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, William Faulkner and Truman Capote. These must have been memorable occasions, but the book either does not mention these events at all, or does not share any interesting details about them.
Finally the author does not pay attention to Capa as a photographer. The book mentions multiple times that Capa mainly used Leica cameras, but does not pay attention to his technique, style or choice of subjects. The only memorable quote from Capa related to photography in the book is Capa’s well-know statement ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’.

Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection is a definitive ‘must have’

Robert Capa - The definitive collectionThe book I really recommend is “Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection” by Richard
Whelan. This book contains 937 photos taken by Robert Capa and provides a condensed biography of Robert Capa’s life
The photos are selected by Richard Whelan and Cornell Capa, Robert Capa’s brother (who interestingly enough also adopted Capa as a last name). The book provides a great overview of Capa’s work and does not only include pictures of all the wars he covered, but also pictures he took on film sets with Ingrid Bergman, pictures of the rich and famous (including the Dutch royal family, John Huston, William Faulkner, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote) and series of pictures he took of the trip he undertook with John Steinbeck through the USSR in 1947 and of Jewish immigrants in Israel in 1948 and 1949.
Due to the fact that this book does not only cover his war photography, it enables readers to assess Capa’s skills as a photographer in “non-combat” situations. This distinction is important because photography in combat situation obviously offers little or no opportunity to properly focus and frame pictures.
His work depicting the political unrest in Europe during the Interbellum, with pictures of its political rallies, demonstrations and strikes, provides great documentary material and really manages to bring this era to live. The playfulness of Capa’s street photography will remind viewers of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (one of the people he co-founded Magnum with). The only disappointing part of his body of work are his portraits. Although they are technically good, there is nothing special about them, especially if you compare them with the work of famous portrait photographers like Irvin Penn or Richard Avedon.
His “non-combat” pictures confirm that Capa was a technically competent photographer . The lightning, focus and depth of filed choices of all his pictures is immaculate. More importantly however is that his “non-combat” pictures are wonderful recordings of hope and optimism. In that sense they are a true testimony of the resilience of the human race.