Juergen Teller - Fame, Fashion and Photography Artsnight

Juergen Teller - Fame, Fashion and Photography

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And we should say there is some strong language in this programme.


In the 1990s, Juergen Teller's shots for the music and fashion industries


turned him into 1 of the leading lights of commercial photography.


His documentary style images were unlike anything the fashion


Deliberately showing models unadorned with physical flaws.


And they questioned our modern-day demands of perfection.


Despite Juergen Teller's often brutal style, famous people


still line up to be photographed by him.


In my role as museum director, photography has


And I'm especially interested in difficult photographs.


In this way, I do believe Juergen Teller truly turned


celebrity photography into something else.


In this programme, I will meet the man behind some of the most


I'm privileged to have been granted access to Juergen Teller's studio


For a conversation about fame and celebrity. In the course of one year


he photographed hundreds of models on his doorstep. I guess I'm


today's. Let's go down. There are a of pictures here famous


people. Also in people. I see family, yourself. Here is Lily Cole.


And Patti Smith. And Vivienne Westwood. What is your interest in


famous people, why so many famous people? That's a good question.


Well, you know, there's a thing about these famous people.


I'm not really interested in famous people, I'm interested


And all these people you mentioned, they do something which means


So you are not really after a celebration of fame?


The fame doesn't interest me whatsoever.


What I'm trying to say is, like, Kurt Cobain, I was so mesmerised


The way you photograph these famous people is very,


It's a celebration, both of what they stand for,


but also a celebration of your own view of your own life,


in a way, do these things come together.


in a way, do these things come together?


Yeah, that's why they are all, in a way, mixed up.


They all kind of, for me, sit happily next to each other.


People ask me, do you photograph so many nudes, do you photograph


I photographed food, I photograph my mum,


If I'm interested in it I do it and I find the same pleasure


of photographing landscapes and of photographing a naked woman


But when we go to the next wall here, there's an interesting...


Not contradiction, but sometimes you, like the picture


of Victoria Beckham disappearing in this oversized bag,


Victoria Beckham moved to America because of David Beckham,


to LA, then she started to go to fashion shows.


And that was Marc Jacobs fashion show.


And the fashion world was outraged about, what the hell is she suddenly


Marc called me up and said, what do you think about using her


I was like immediately, that's a brilliant idea,


but we've got to do something, we can't laugh at, we've got to make


but we've got to do something, we can't laugh at her,


And we both came up with the idea to build a huge shopping bag.


And put her in this big bag with her legs dangling down,


Some woman's doctor scenario, then these fashionable shoes


sticking out. She was not afraid that she would,


you know, that people would laugh at her?


That she would truly become an object?


Or there is no limit at all? Well, the thing is, it's pretty obvious


in this photograph that she is part of it, right, I'm not


She is obviously going into this bag.


Sometimes you also portray these famous people


I'd probably have to admit I have maybe quite a brutal,


Because the clown, the tradition of the clown is somebody


who we like to warmly embrace because he or she,


the clown, tells us something, that our life is maybe not


Well, I think I see this in a way, the absurdity of life.


Life throws us so many obstacles and sadness and difficult...


You know, my father killed himself early on, that really scarred me


but I don't want to talk about it much now.


But I want to see, also, have a bit of fun with life.


See the absurdity of, like, how beautiful but also how absurd the


fashion industry is, you know. That means you have a love


and hate relationship But how can you work within that


system if you have a love Or is that why people keep asking


you to work within the system? Because you are inside


and outside at the same time? Fashion is a wonderful vehicle


to create a certain fantasy world. But that's the funny thing,


within this fantasy, what I'm doing, it


looks incredibly real. My way of photographing,


it's very harsh and very real. Juergen Teller arrived in London


from his native Germany in 1986. In the 1990s became part


of a new aesthetic in the fashion industry, which was


dubbed anti-fashion. Its poster girl was


the young Kate Moss. What I like about Kate is that


she's really lively, I really like her, she's very quirky


and very full of energy. I've always liked what he does,


what he makes the pictures look like and, you know,


what he makes you feel What was your attraction


with Kate Moss? She didn't fit the role


of supermodel, she was shorter, quirky, she had super energy,


she was super exciting. She wasn't sort of untouchable,


like Linda Evangelista was. Somebody has called your work


an example of dirty realism. Do you recognise your own work


in these kinds of descriptions? There's also an incredible


romanticism in my work, you know, and a beauty


in it, you know? Teller became one of the most sought


after fashion photographers in the world with a string of


high-profile advertising campaigns. In 1998 he began photographing


aspiring models on his doorstep. It was both an innovative


photographing project and a subtle critique of the fashion


industry itself. I had clients flying me Concord


to photograph these supermodels. These pictures came out


and other pictures I did, so it became sort


of known in industry. Agencies started


sending me these girls. And because of Kate Moss,


model agencies thought, it's going to be really easy to find


a new Kate Moss and make The stream of strange looking girls


who came flooding was enormous. It was all over a period of one


year and when there was, In summer less, but when there


was London Fashion Week for example You opened the door,


they knocked, they rang the bell, Then I asked them to come


in and have a cup of tea or coffee Then I'd look at their


portfolio and talk to them. And then I asked, can


I take a picture of you? Here's a release form,


I'm trying to do this and this. And then within the


parameter of my door. So it's like, maybe, two meters into


my house. Even one metre into my house only. Around the door. And


then just hear opposite. It established his reputation as a high


concept experimental photographer who challenged the fashion


industry's very notion of itself. In 2004 he embarked upon an even more


radical advertising campaign with an actress who over a number of years


had become his muse. In an extraordinary shoot for the fashion


house Marc Jacobs at a Paris hotel, Juergen Teller cast himself in the


role of her young lover, wearing a pair of satin shorts or nothing at


all. There's one exception in your body of work, a truly amazing story,


there is one person who you feel so close to. And you treat completely


differently from everybody else. Which is Charlotte Rampling. Why


Charlotte Rampling? You know, I was so in all of her. Image wise. For


some reason or another. I remember I photographed her for Liberacion


newspaper. My first book came out in 1996 by Taschen. She comes in,


really harsh with the way she looks, she is not forthcoming whatsoever


when you meet her at the beginning, she can be really frightening. She


says, you've got, five or ten minutes, she said, to photograph me.


I was like... That's not very long, right? I was like, oh my good, I


thought fuck it, I'm going to take a chance. I said before I photograph


you, can I take five minutes, you looking at this book. I knew I have


five minutes left to photograph you, doesn't matter, I'll take it, look


at this book. She looks at this book, then looks at pictures of your


smiling with her son, and of Kate Moss, Nirvana and everything. She


closes the book and says, take out whether long you want. There's


another aspect in these photographs when I look at Kate Moss, when I


look at especially when we look at Charlotte Rampling, there is a form


of intimacy you establish with these so-called famous people. Maybe is


that they were matters as you are talking about? We feel like we know


them suddenly much better. You are capable to give us an intimacy that


is not the foyer, you are not the foyer. They completely trust me,


these people. -- voyeur. When I'm in the room doing it I'm fully there,


fully occupying this room, talking to them, doing things with them.


They know, they can see from myself portraits how far I go. I'm


constantly in it. They They know what they might get


into themselves when I'm taking Some people don't even


want to go there. But when they get involved with me,


they have a sense of where When we look at photographs,


your own photographs but also photographs you make of other


people, famous and unfamous, The way you work with nudity


is quite something else from the nudity we know


through the history of art, It's not so much I would say


the elegance of nudity, it's not like nudity as a fetish,


it's not voyeuristic. I grew up in the countryside next


to the forest and we had a sauna and one of those cheap swimming


pools and it was always normal So that became, completely,


since I'm a child, Before anybody else,


I started photographing me naked, I wanted to do that as natural


and normal and pure as possible and I didn't want to deal


with a dress code. I didn't want to deal with fashion,


which is where my -- The first self portrait


I did was in the forest, at my swimming pool,


coming out of the sauna. And then I got really


attracted to the skin. Not only my skin, but also


the muscle, the fat, It's like how you look


at a tree or something Lily cold skin, so white


and unbrown. And this person has black skin


and they have white here. When you look really carefully,


it's all really interesting. When we look at your work,


it's almost like a continuation of an art canon which is called


the grotesque, starting in the 16th century, 17th century -


think about Goya - 18th century. The grotesque is like we know,


we recognise that our life is not all that ideal and we have


to give that recognition, that we cannot achieve this ideal


life, this ideal form. We have to give that a form,


and that's called the grotesque. Do you see your work


in the tradition of the grotesque? I guess you are right,


yeah, possibly. Are there any famous people


you refuse to photograph? Are there any famous people


who call up and say, Juergen, I want to have


a photograph of myself. That is a good example,


because that is a big question mark. I really thought, "Should I actually


go there and photograph him? He asked you if you


think he was guilty. I was photographing in a hotel room


with my two cameras - And then he suddenly


leans over and says, "Juergen, who do you


think who's done it?" And I knew I wanted to be


with him on my own. I thought somehow, I felt,


"I've got to face "this guy And I was so shocked


about this question. Certainly, he has a sense of needing


to say something. And then I used my cameras


to hide myself, and then I was still using film and suddenly


the film ran out and went... I was like, "It looks


good, stay like that." And then both cameras


were empty and I felt like, "I can't pretend to


photograph any more." And I just thought, "I need to get


the fuck out of here Earlier this year, Teller hit


the headlines with a new, audacious project involving


the world's most famous celebrity This was also a supplement made


for a sister magazine. He wanted to be photographed


for the cover of New York Times, which turned out a really good


experience and it was And then we met up again


in Paris and I thought, And I had this chateau like an hour


outside and I just thought, Wow, they are Americans


and there is this good looking That's where they got married,


in some nice place in Tuscany. I rather was attracted


to the sandpit, you know. And I thought that was more


obscure and weird. How did you explain to them


what you wanted to do? How did you explain,


"I'm not going to make fun of you, I always have this kind of way


of convincing people. And I have this complete urge


of doing it and I feel it I don't sit there and


intellectualise things That's why I probably can


convince people to do things I think, "What do you think


about that sandpit? They looked at me and thought,


"Oh, yeah." I thought, "Oh, God,


there is something missing And I remember when Kanye said


to Kim, "This is how it is to work with three A-listers",


which meant her, him and me. That's when I thought, "Actually,


what's missing is I'm missing Because some pictures got taken out,


I just thought, I'm going to go back there and get involved and walk


the countryside and go further. In this book, Kanye,


Kim And Juergen, you are playing, and the way you are dressed also,


you are playing a kind of Mr Normal. Do you want these famous


people to say, "Listen, "when you work with me,


there is a chance you can be In his most recent series


of photographs, The Clinic, Teller turns his uncompromising


gaze on his own life, looking back at his


troubled family history. There is a recent book about death


but also about resurrection, On my 50th birthday,


I made a big party at my mum's place and I invited just the widest family


members, from cousins and everything who I haven't seen for many


years and everything. Anyway, they all turned up


and they all came and my cousin, who I got into photography


in the first place, made me He looked at all these slides my dad


took when I was little. He made these incredible,


touching books, which you can do now He digitised all these recorder


chromes. And these are photographs


made by your father. And then I thought, this was totally


shocking, I nearly cried. This is me, but it


looks like my son. And it looks like many of the faces


in these photographs. And the way it's photographed


is so much like how I photograph, The new project combines


the old family photos with pictures Teller took on his recent stint


at a health clinic. The result is a powerful series


about family and memory. One of the most arresting images


sees him standing naked on his father's grave,


clutching an empty beer bottle. I didn't know exactly what to do


with it until I went It's called the Mayo Clinic


and that was last February. Where I kind of got tired


of smoking and drinking. I smoked like 30 cigarettes


and I thought I became Every time I needed to do some work


or made a phone call, I would have been constantly smoking


cigarettes in this interview. I just drank too much and I kind


of wanted to change, And a friend of mine said,


"I'm going to "stop drinking for a year", and I liked that idea,


to do something, to be... And that's what I'm


doing at the moment. OK, because you have to tell me


what to do. That's all from my


addition of Artsnight.


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