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JUERGEN TELLER

Interview by Filep Motwary

I first met Juergen Teller at a lunch at Café Marly in Paris in 2004. He had recently shot Charlotte Rampling for the new issue of POP magazine, and five minutes later, in walked Miss Rampling herself. I had not met her before, but I did not think to introduce myself: I felt I already knew her, from Teller’s intimate, opulent photographs. That was just before Steidl published his book Louis XV, another collaboration between Teller and Rampling. We met once more to talk flash, flesh and feeling.

Motwary:

You first caught the eye of the fashion world with your grunge-inspired photos for The Face, back in the early 1990s. How far have you come?

Teller:

I am wiser. Not so naïve, but still fresh. Still very much in control of what I want to do.

Motwary:

What have you learned from working with Marc Jacobs?

Teller:

Our collaboration is 11 years old. I think all I learned from Marc grew out of the trust he gives me. He leaves me alone to solve the “problem” of how to photograph this – and he believes in me. And that makes me try very hard – to push myself. This inspires me as a human being.

Motwary:

What do you think gives the Marc Jacobs campaigns such oomph?

Teller:

They are very clear and consistent in their message. They are individual – they have a sense of humor. You are able to identify with the person in the photograph. You are able to aspire to be that person. To be that person. Oh, and I make the clothes and accessories look good.

Motwary:

Louis XV was shocking for some. How did you feel about the reactions? What did you want to achieve with it at the time? What do you see as you look back on it today?

Teller:

It was an adventure. And so it was fun. It was a journey on which I wanted to go, and I still see it as such. If you feel something that you want to do,

you are incapable of thinking about what other people might think. You go and you do it.

Motwary:

How do you respond to criticism when you hear it in person?

Teller:

It can be tough. You have to listen to them, if they make sense. I try to learn from it – and learn away from it. There is a lot of stupid criticism I’m just not interested in.

Motwary:

You could have chosen any other type of photography, and yet fashion is where you’re at. Why?

Teller:

Well, I’m not just doing fashion photography. But somehow it suits me. I enjoy it. Really.

Motwary:

What’s the Teller team like? How do you choose your assistants?

Teller:

I have only one full-time photographic assistant. As for the rest? Good, honest human beings.

Motwary:

Where is the power in fashion photography?

Teller:

To help sell the product. It can inspire; it can criticize.

Motwary:

So fashion can be a political statement? In an economic crisis, for example?

Teller:

Of course it can! But most of the time, you just don’t read so much into it. You just turn the page.

Motwary:

What if I asked you to describe some of the people you shoot?

Teller:

I don’t want to label them; they are all complex, wonderful human beings.

Motwary:

Is that why your subjects appear to be ageless? They all seem immersed in a deep, timeless emotional state.

Teller:

I don’t know. I just do it; I can’t really explain it.

Interview originally published in Dapper Dan, Issue 01,  2010

Photo © Juergen Teller

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SHORT BIO

Born in Germany in 1964. op photographer whose work for Helmut Lang, Comme des Garcons, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs has changed the way we view fashion photography. Photographed himself with actress Charlotte Rampling for the Spring/Summer 2004 Marc Jacobs campaign. Perhaps his most talked about campaign was Victoria Beckham in a shopping bag for Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2008. One of the few top photographers left who does not “retouch” his photographs. Coming out with a book of all his images for Marc Jacobs in summer 2009. Has a son with top stylist Venetia Scott.