Cathleen Naundorf: Haute Couture

The Crying Game. Dior.

DPP: How has your work in reportage influenced your fashion work?

Naundorf: After 10 years traveling around the world, I did some assignments as a backstage photographer during the fashion shows in Paris. I found it very exciting to see how they created beauty. I also found it interesting to meet and photograph the girls, which they called models during the fashion shows, the same girls I had met in places like Russia, Brazil and Norway on my travels. I knew their real lives. I discovered the interest human beings have for both glamour and different ethnicities. Combined, it’s a very interesting subject. Reality and illusion. So I slowly began to create in my fashion scenarios my own world of "glamour," with a mix of romance, theatre, ethnic studies and humor. A painterly touch helps me to create poses and a sense of eternity.

In 2012, Naundorf’s book Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf was published by Prestel.

DPP: Who are some of the artists and photographers who have influenced you?

Naundorf: Horst P. Horst is on the top of the list. He was a master of light and shadow. He had an absolutely incredible aesthetic and was a great lover of beauty. He was my mentor for many years. Irving Penn has been another endless source of inspiration. There’s so much depth to his photographs. Penn captured the eternity of the human being. There’s a simple message in his photographs of existence. Both Horst and Penn were masters of the portrait, still life, travel photography and fashion. Simply genius!

DPP: How do you develop your concepts for your photo scenarios?

Naundorf: I get inspired from life itself. I do a lot of drawings and storyboarding to prepare my team for the shoots. They’re based on intensive research, which goes into my storyboards, which often include archival photographs, text I’ve written or been inspired by, and my sketches for the planned shoot. This gets everyone in the right mood for the story. I’ve done travel diaries and storyboards for years. It’s one of my happiest times, expressing thoughts and developing ideas on paper, but I used to throw them away. It was a question of space. But my friends kept telling me that they’re pieces of art and that I need to keep them. So now I do, and maybe someday, we’ll publish them.

L’arche de Noé VII. Philip Treacy design. Dior Haute Couture Summer 2012. Photographed in the Studio Bastille, Paris. Color print from original Polaroid.

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