I’ve been waiting for weeks to find the time to go and see ‘Woo‘ at the ICA London, the latest collaboration between Juergen Teller and the contemporary art world. Teller is not just a photographer, I think he could be better described as an author of photography. He is a heritage to himself, not just a successful photographer, he is an incredibly grounded perfectionist who deeply cares about people.
So I’ve seen Vivienne Westwood’s vagina, I’m not going to skim around this fact. I was shocked, but on reflection, I am incredibly fascinated by Juergen Teller as a photographer. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to have visited one of his exhibitions as I admire him very much. What amazes me about Teller, is the power of his connections with his subjects, that for me translates into upmost respect for him. He is a multi faceted persona – as well as being incredibly skilled in the technique of photography, he prides himself on his long lasting relationships with his clients, that he risks his own vulnerability to build. The extra mile that Teller invests emotionally into his profession is what has allowed him to produce some of the most powerful and iconic photographs of the last two decades. Images of Vivienne Westwood are just his latest example, with previous similar examples including Charlotte Rampling, Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Lily Cole to name but a few. Teller’s photography is distinctly recognisable. He has a signature, almost in-comprehensive style and he seems to hypnotise his models into a state of complete calm and openness. The women listed above are all highly renown for what they do in their fields, and he has managed with every one of them to expose their inner serenity in a completely natural way.
I don’t know if I will get in trouble for this, (the new issue is out today, so I’m not leaking any information that isn’t already in the public realm) but I transcribed the Juergen Teller interview for Wonderland back in December, so I wanted to quote him in relation to his influence on visual culture as we know it. In his own words, “I hope people will be intrigued and not shocked by my work, as for me it is a beautiful thing of Vivienne being so free and proud and comfortable with herself, and being over 70 years old. I think she looks incredibly beautiful.”
Teller is one of the most renown fashion photographers of our time, and through his lens he has an incredible ability to subvert the traditional relationships between photographer and model, resulting in a definitive photographic style and narrative. I think this also builds from an appreciation of people, for who they are and their story. It’s not just about their face or the final photograph for him, it’s about building up trust and working from it. His photography is instantly recognisable through the subtle uses of humour, self mockery and emotional honesty, and from what I’ve read there is usually always a story behind every shoot he has done. Teller transcends boundaries, and puts two fingers up towards social conservatism at the same time. If you’re disgusted or offended by Woo then you haven’t understood Juergen Teller properly. Here is a Guardian video of Teller explaining his aesthetic. For him it’s nothing to do with ‘celebrity’ or status, it’s about the individual and the process, that interests him to a point where he ‘kind of falls in love’ with every subject.
Here is a short Vimeo of Woo at the ICA, which is running until 17th March ’13. I’d really recommend a visit, this man is a force to be reckoned with. For more information you can also visit the ICA website.