"He leaves a big void," reads the sad message on the Instagram account of Peter Lindbergh, who died yesterday at the age of 74. Lindbergh was one of the most important fashion photographers ever, producing groundbreaking work for decades until the time of his death.
His family did not communicate the exact circumstances, but his death is unexpected, according to recent weeks, which saw no slowing down in his consistent stream of work. Born in Poland, the photographer grew up in Germany and became world-famous in the late '80s and early '90s when he began revolutionizing magazine covers and working with the era's pioneering supermodels including Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford. Since then, Lindbergh's name has often lived within the same breath as those of fashion's most famous. While previously, heavily stylized and polished models adorned the covers of fashion magazines, suddenly a batch of natural-looking sex appeal took over thanks to the famous photographer, who opposed retouching and became a maverick and rebel in the fashion industry for his black-and-white, honest approach to showcasing contemporary beauty.
Because our words fail in honoring the immense impact of his talent, we have chosen to share ten of the best quotes that he shared over the years. Each one proves Lindbergh's sincerity and modesty, giving even more reasons he is an irreplaceable figure within the industry.
Not using Photoshop is an ethical choice and not an aesthetic one. Photoshop removes humanity: signs of time and experience are simply erased. I am convinced that true beauty can only result from self-acceptance, from the awareness of who we are: it is a matter of identity.
Women are much more open and courageous. They have more guts and take far more risks than men. I look at women the way they really are. Maybe that's why they can free themselves from themselves in front of my lens.
I love Instagram! For specific reasons, that is: as long as you don't use it to show the world that you are going out to eat with, say, Brad Pitt. If you have something to say, you can reach the right people, while this used to be unthinkable. But to measure someone's value based on the number of followers, that's just one of those ridiculous things about it.
People sometimes ask if I want to quit. I am now 72, but why would I want to quit? So I say no, certainly because I am now handling everything better. With the best of intentions, but I must not impress anyone. My brain can now function properly. If people look at me now, I really don't care. It's a nice feeling.
On the Urge for Perfection
Almost everything has been retouched, and that perfection is terrorizing the world. That urge for perfection is the most capricious thing. But it is a strong weapon for commerce to make people believe that that is beautiful. Because who doesn't want to be beautiful? I want it too, but it takes me too much effort. Someone with a commercial motive wants you to believe that perfection is beauty. But perfection is an insult.
On Working with Supermodels
The funny thing is that I just ask everyone to stand in front of my lens: who I am in love with, who I admire, everyone I wanted to marry after having worked together for 25 years, but for which I didn't have the balls to ask.
On a Distorted Image of Beauty
The cosmetics industry has brainwashed us all. I'm not retouching anything. "Oh, but she looks tired," they say. And then if she looks tired? Tired and beautiful.
My reaction during photoshoots was often, "Take the makeup off. It looks terrible." If one of them said, "Oh, but I have a contract with Revlon, I can't photograph without makeup." Then I answered, "Why would you draw something so absurd?"
On Real Photos
It's not that I care about "being sincere." It is the only thing that I am interested in.
On Disagreements with Vogue
In 1987, Lindbergh made it clear to Alexander Liberman, then creative director of Condé Nast, why he did not want to work for American Vogue at the time: "I just can't tolerate that type of photos of women in your magazine."
On That History-Making Supermodel Cover
I just had no idea that this would make history. I didn't think about that for a second. I didn't even do anything, just used a little bit of light. It just came naturally, effortlessly. We did not feel that we would change the world; it was all intuition.