Peter Lindbergh: Untold Stories
MK&G, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
June 20 – November 01, 2020
Untold Stories is the first ever survey exhibition curated by Peter Lindbergh himself. Born in 1944 and raised in Duisburg, the German photographer spent two years working on an uncompromising collection of 140 photographs that will offer a deep insight into his extensive oeuvre, spanning from the early 1980’s to the present day. The exhibition celebrates the legacy of Peter Lindbergh, who passed away in September 2019, while showcasing this master’s highly personal approach to his work. ‘The first time I saw my photographs on the walls of the exhibition mock-up, I was startled, but in a positive way. It was overwhelming to be thus confronted with who I am.’, Lindbergh explained in an interview for the catalogue in June 2019. The show at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G) offers an extensive, first-hand look at images that are usually short-lived; being mostly commissioned and published by monthly magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, Rolling Stone, W Magazine or the Wall Street Journal.
Lindbergh’s comprehension of fashion photography was that it can – and should – exist very well without putting fashion in the centre. His images successfully transcend their own context, redefining the parameters of fashion photography and contemporary culture overall. ‘The exhibition allowed me to reconsider my images in a non-fashion context. The presentation aims to open the photographs to different interpretations and perspectives.’ stressed Lindbergh during the conversation. ‘However, I don’t try to claim that my pictures aren’t fashion photographs, that wouldn’t be true either. I insist on the definition “fashion photography” because for me that term doesn’t mean that one has to depict fashion – photography is much bigger than fashion, it is part of contemporary culture.’
The exhibition is conceived in three chapters. Two large-scale installations bookend the presentation and shed a fresh and surprising light on Lindbergh’s work. Manifest, the monumental opening installation, was developed especially for the presentation and provides an immersive and thought-provoking introduction to Lindbergh’s understanding of fashion photography. In the central section of the exhibition, Lindbergh arranged the works he personally considered essential to his oeuvre. He experimented with his own material and revealed new stories while staying true to his language. Both, emblematic and never before exhibited works are shown in pairs or groups that give rise to unexpected and striking interpretations.
The exhibition closes with the film installation Testament (2014), which uncovers a hitherto unknown side of the practice and character of the German photographer. Shot through a one-way mirror, the film shows the silent exchange between Lindbergh’s camera and Elmer Carroll. The Florida death row inmate spent 30 minutes looking intently at his reflection – thoughtful and without significant facial animation. Shown for the first time, the Testament installation adds an unexpected layer to the exhibition and opens a discussion about subjects that were of central importance to Peter Lindbergh: introspection, empathy and freedom.