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Peter Lindbergh (1944–2019), photographer of supermodels

by Linnea Crowther

Peter Lindbergh was a fashion photographer who is credited with jump-starting the rise of the supermodel in the 1990s.

Peter Lindbergh was a fashion photographer who is credited with jump-starting the rise of the supermodel in the 1990s. His photograph of models Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Tatjana Patitz for the 1990 British Vogue cover is considered a turning point, both for the models’ careers and for the decade’s aesthetic. The black and white photo would become iconic, inspiring George Michael’s 1990 “Freedom” video. Lindbergh’s photographs appeared in magazines including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar; in museum and gallery exhibitions; and in advertisements for brands including Dior, Prada, and Calvin Klein.

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Died: September 3, 2019 (Who else died on September 3?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 74.

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No retouching: In a culture where retouching and photoshopping have become the norm in fashion photography — sometimes changing the model’s appearance to a bizarrely unrealistic degree — Lindbergh refused to retouch his photos. He even preferred to photograph models without makeup or with only minimal makeup, allowing their natural beauty to shine through in his work. By doing so, he said in his 2018 book “Shadows on the Wall,” he sought to “free women and everyone from the terror of youth and perfection.”

Notable quote: “I hate retouching, I hate makeup. I always say, ‘Take the makeup off!’ The number of beautiful women who have asked me to lengthen their legs or move their eyes further apart, you would not believe. It’s a culture of madness.” —from a 2019 interview with British Vogue

What people said about him: “I think his real love of women showed through in the way that he photographed; he wasn’t looking for flawless perfection, he saw the beauty in you. I loved the cover for British Vogue with Christy, Linda and I, and Tatjana and Naomi. It was iconic in so many ways. …Peter offered a very pared down, modern way to see women coming out of the 1980s. He launched that idea of beauty for the 1990s.” —Cindy Crawford

“I have always admired Peter Lindbergh’s images of women, which allowed a glimpse into a world of sensitivity and emotion; a vital and secret intensity that his eye alone was able to capture.” —Giorgio Armani

“So sad to hear about the loss of Peter Lindbergh. Over the years I’ve worked with Peter on many shoots. He was enormously kind and always made me feel beautiful no matter what kind of day I was having. He was a wonderful soul who put so much gorgeous art into the world.” —Reese Witherspoon

Full obituary: New York Times

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