Juergen Teller belongs in the group of photographers responsible for changing fashion’s path, driving it to a new direction. During a coffee break in Paris, a few years back, I was discussing the new POP magazine that had just come out at the time and how wonderful Charlotte Rampling looked in a fashion story included in the issue. Five minutes later, Mme Rampling herself entered the bar among Juergen Teller… I felt that it was meant to be.Teller was born in 1964 in Erlangen, Germany. He studied at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt fur Photograhie in Munich (1984-1986) before moving to London in 1986, where he currently lives and works.
Magazines like French , Italian and American Vogue, W, Self Service, i-D, , Purple are just a few names on his long list of collaborations.He is responsible for introducing the grunge era to the world during the mid 90’s, through the pages of late “THE FACE” magazine, has photographed the legendary Kurt Cobain of Nirvana with his raw, overexposed style .
He is behind the fantastic campaigns of Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood and his photographs have been exhibited among others at the Cartier Art Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art in New York…He is regarded as one of the most influential fashion photographers working today and he is the only one that is not afraid of being self-sarcastic, a detail proved in several occasions.During that short meeting at café Marli, we had a brief conversation and what I can clearly remember is how modest Juergen appeared to be, when I expressed my admiration for his work. It was only a few months before the book Louis XV was released (a project he did with Rampling with Gottingen: Steidl, in 2004.Five years later, just when his book with Marc Jacobs is about to be released, I decided to ask him some questions for Isterografo…
FilepMotwary: Juergen, how far do you see yourself today compared to when you hit the Fashion Industry with your “Grunge” photographs back in the early 90’s?
Juergen Teller: Wiser, not so naïve, but still fresh. Very much in control of what I want to do.
FilepMotwary: Soon your campaign collaborations with Jacobs will be released as a book publication. What have you learned working with Marc and vice versa?
JuergenTeller : It will be collaborations of 11 years doing advertising together. I think what I learned from Marc is the trust he gives me; he leaves me alone to solve “the problem” of how to photograph this and that…. He strongly believes in me and that makes me try very hard to push myself. He inspires me as a human being.
FilepMotwary: Why in your opinion, the Jacobs campaigns have such a string impact?
Juergen Teller: Because they are very clear and consistent in their message. They are individual, have a sense of humour. You can identify with the person in the photograph or you can aspire to be the person. And I make the clothes and accessories look good.
FilepMotwary: Apart from Jacobs you also collaborate with YSL and Vivienne Westwood. How do you separate each of these clients needs and profile, while working I mean. What are the differences if we compare the three of them?
FilepMotwary: I first met you in Person in 2004, at a lunch with Charlotte Rampling at café Marli. I was impressed by your shy response when said that I am a big fan of your work. Are you shy as a person? Would it be too much if I asked you to describe yourself?
Juergen Teller: I don’t want to describe myself, but can be shy, for sure.
FilepMotwary: Your collaboration with Charlotte Rampling in 2005 LOUIS XV publication was quite shocking for various reasons. How did you receive people’s reactions back then? What was the purpose of the book back then and how do you see it today?
JuergenTeller: It was an adventure I wanted to make and it was fun, a journey I wanted to go. I still see it as such. If you feel something you want to do, you cannot think about what other people might think. You just got to do it.
FilepMotwary: How do you respond to criticism? Especially when you hear it in person? How honest can someone be with you?
FilepMotwary: What is most important human quality you have learnt in your life?
JuergenTeller: To be generous and open in all aspects of life.
FilepMotwary: The most impressive thing about your “subjects” is that you seem careless about their age. On the other hand, all the women you photograph seem to be in a very deep emotional state. How do you manage this?
FilepMotwary: How does the Teller team have to be like? How do you choose your assistants?
JuergenTeller: Well, I only have one Photographic Assistant, but for the rest; good, honest human beings.
FilepMotwary: Define Humor.
FilepMotwary: You could have chosen any other type of photography, yet, Fashion is what you decided. Why?
JuergenTeller: Well, I’m not only doing fashion photography. But it somehow suits me, and I really enjoy it.
FilepMotwary: What is Fashion photography’s power?
JuergenTeller: Helping to sell the product. It can inspire, it can criticize.
FilepMotwary: Something a bit more personal: How are you as a father?
FilepMotwary: What are your limits when working for a client, if there are any?
JuergenTeller: I am always responsible to my clients needs.
FilepMotwary: Can fashion be a political statement? What is fashion’s role during the economic crisis that everybody is going through?
JuergenTeller: Of course it can! But most of the time, don’t just read so much into it.
FilepMotwary: Out of the women in your work, who is the most important for you and why?
FilepMotwary: If I asked you to describe the personalities you photograph?
JuergenTeller: I don’t want to label them, they are all complex wonderful human beings.
Note: All photographs by Juergen Teller. Copyrights reserved.