Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ellen von Unwerth: Master Of Not The Girl Next Door

By Mark Edward Harris, Photography By Ellen von Unwerth Published in Photographer Profiles
Movement, spontaneity and sensuality are the hallmarks of an Ellen von Unwerth photograph. While she has made a name for herself in fashion, her pictures don't look like the traditional fare found in magazine spreads and advertising campaigns. Her style is a blend of high fashion and reportage served with a heavy dose of eroticism. The idea that women can embrace their sexuality and femininity at the same time is a recurring theme throughout her body of work. She found fame when she began photographing Claudia Schiffer in what would become an iconic ad campaign for GUESS. Having spent a decade working as a model, von Unwerth brings the kind of perspective that only comes from someone who has worked in front of and behind the camera. Her work has been published in top magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview, The Face, Arena, Twill, L'Uomo Vogue and i-D, and she has published several books. This fall, von Unwerth released the book, Fräulein. The volume's 472 pages are filled with models and celebrities in different stages of undress.
Movement, spontaneity and sensuality are the hallmarks of an Ellen von Unwerth photograph. While she has made a name for herself in fashion, her pictures don't look like the traditional fare found in magazine spreads and advertising campaigns. Her style is a blend of high fashion and reportage served with a heavy dose of eroticism. The idea that women can embrace their sexuality and femininity at the same time is a recurring theme throughout her body of work. She found fame when she began photographing Claudia Schiffer in what would become an iconic ad campaign for GUESS. Having spent a decade working as a model, von Unwerth brings the kind of perspective that only comes from someone who has worked in front of and behind the camera. Her work has been published in top magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview, The Face, Arena, Twill, L'Uomo Vogue and i-D, and she has published several books. This fall, von Unwerth released the book, Fräulein. The volume's 472 pages are filled with models and celebrities in different stages of undress.

DPP: Were all the characters professional models?

von Unwerth: The main girl. The only thing was that she had to be over 25 because the shoot was for advertising alcohol. The other people I found there. The work of Bellocq was an inspiration. I never like to copy anybody, but I like that atmosphere and the way he portrayed women. I never exactly copy a picture; I think that's boring. I'd rather do it myself and have a surprise—that's the interesting thing about photography.

DPP: Were you using natural light?

von Unwerth: Mostly, it's natural light. There's another that I lit to make it red and fiery. Mostly, I use daylight.

DPP: Even though it's a still photograph, there's a lot of energy, a real-life feel. Which other photographers have inspired you?

von Unwerth: Helmut Newton is great. I only worked once with him when I was modeling because I wasn't his type of woman, but he was great. I also love Lartigue and a lot of reportage photographers such as Sebastião Salgado

DPP: That's interesting because your style is really a cross between them, in a sense—reportage/fashion.

von Unwerth: That's true. The sexiness of Newton, the realness found in reportage and then the kind of lively, charming side of Lartigue. That's what I love.


See more of Ellen von Unwerth's work in the book, Fräulein, from Taschen.

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