Peter Lindbergh and Azzedine Alaïa shared many things: a love of black, a commitment to simplicity of form, and a sensibility defined by a deep appreciation for female beauty. “We met in 1979, I believe. Ever since, Azzedine and I are hand in glove,” Lindbergh once said. Alaïa was equally respectful, saying of their long friendship and fruitful working relationship: “We don’t even need to talk. Everything flows.”
On May 14, Taschen released a landmark book that explores the photographer and couturier’s frequent collaborations, bringing to life an expansive visual dialogue that fused dramatic design with starkly cinematic photography. Lindbergh is best known for his stripped-back photos of fresh-faced models; Alaïa for his form-fitting garments that made women feel powerful.
Telling the story of their work together, Azzedine Alaïa, Peter Lindbergh is introduced by contributions from Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris director Fabrice Hergott, fashion historian and Fondation Azzedine Alaïa curator Olivier Saillard and photographer Paolo Roversi. The 240-page book, featuring a bevy of supermodels including Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon, Nadja Auermann and Linda Evangelista, is published to coincide with the Azzedine Alaïa, Peter Lindbergh exhibition at the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, 18 Rue de la Verrerie, Paris, France.
The tale of two icons
Lindbergh and Alaïa came from very different origins and disciplines. Born in 1944, Lindbergh, who grew up in Germany, trained in the Krefeld School of Applied Arts and developed a photographic practice drawing on sources ranging from Otto Dix’s unrelenting paintings to the glimpses of Paris captured by Hungarian photographers Brassaï and André Kertész. Alaïa was born in Tunisia in 1935 and studied sculpture at the Institut Supérieur des Beaux Arts in Tunis before moving to Paris, where he worked for Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler, and set up his own highly successful couture label.
Both were creatives attentive to structure, sensuality and monochromatic palettes. As Saillard writes, Alaïa was “an architect of bodies… [who] brought out women’s figures, forming a silhouette that he draped, moulded or revealed with a cutting technique that he alone mastered.”
And Lindbergh “ennobled his subjects by lighting up their souls and personalities with the precision of the contours that he cut like a tailor.” Each helped to shape the visual culture of the 1980s and then “in unison, were the great, passionate artisans of those unadorned faces that marked the 1990s and consecrated the age of the supermodels.”
Their joint contribution is illustrated beautifully in this book. The focus is purely on garment and character, all the photos shot in black and white. Women linger in abandoned buildings, drape themselves across tiled floors, pose in spotlights, and pause mid-conversation, cigarette in hand. Anna Cleveland loiters on a dimly lit street in a caped coat. Naomi Campbell stands with one hand on her hip, the other raised, her figure sinuous in a tight bodysuit and her stance one of absolute power.
There is a dynamism and quietly executed drama to these pictures: all of them deeply textured, defined by line, and driven by a synthesis between skin, fabric and light. They feature faces that are not only unadorned but unforgettable, and showcase clothes at their most transformative. “I have always wanted women to feel free,” Alaïa said. Within these pages freedom features strongly, present in both motion and stillness, embodied in a quest for authenticity of design and image-making that enabled an extraordinary creative kinship.
Azzedine Alaïa, Peter Lindbergh (Taschen) is out now.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk