Peter LINDBERGH, Jerome Sans (ed.)

The Unknown. The Chinese Episode

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"Peter LINDBERGH’s new project, 'The Unknown', represents yet another innovative chapter in the field of fashion photography.

His exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (April/May 2011) consists of huge murals that are reproduced in this photo book. LINDBERGH’s extraordinary images are displayed within an unusual framework and from a novel perspective for fashion photography: 'The Unknown' is a photographic 'serial novel' of fashion shootings set against the backdrop of a fictitious landing of beings from outer space.

LINDBERGH commenced this visual tour de force in 1990, and he has pursued it with cineastic intensity to the present day. The extra terrestrial theme is elegantly augmented with elements of Hollywood glamour from the fifties, the German cinema of Fritz Lang, and futuristic scenarios of science fiction movies — much in the manner of Orson Welles or Ridley Scott. Lindbergh has now joined these photographs together for the first time to form a large-scale pictorial narrative for the exhibition in Beijing.

Integrating the unexpected and the unpredictable into photography has long been LINDBERGH’s aesthetic concept. In photo book 'The Unknown', the breathtaking play upon natural curiosity and simultaneous, unarticulated fear reaches a pinnacle of suspense. Smoggy industrial facilities, dusty desert landscapes, and big-city side streets illuminated by indefinable sources of light are the settings LINDBERGH chooses for his protagonists.

First and foremost there is supermodel Milla Jovovich who began working with LINDBERGH at age 13 while he was shooting his incredible series in the Mojave Desert. Milla is the star of this chimeric photo-story, the plot of which deliberately remains enigmatic. 'The Unknown' is a remix, a visual journey through decades of images that follows no given order or chronology.
You don’t know what it is, and maybe you should run away, but you stay there because your curiosity is stronger. (...) The beauty of the unknown is that you do not know how it ends.

'The Unknown' intertwines intentions and interpretations: lively, action-packed moments with startled and bewildered faces alternate with placid scenarios and portraits. The presentation of the fashions the models are wearing is not the sole focus; the models evolve into their own independent characters within a fast-paced narrative. At times, even they themselves seem to mutate into aliens.
With his new book and exhibition, LINDBERGH has once again succeeded in stretching the limits of photographic diction. Thanks to his masterly skill, his images hold their own ground amidst fiction and documentation, photography and film, between wonder and fear, stasis and motion. The book represents a quantum leap without equal in the world of illustrated books and fashion photography.

(....) His photographs sought to capture the personality, character, and identity of the models — and not just the glitter and glamour. In doing so, Lindbergh laid the foundation for the “supermodel” phenomenon that swept the globe." (publisher 's note, © Schirmer / Mosel, 2011)

About the photographer, Peter LINDBERGH ( - 2019):
Internationally-known German fashion photographer Peter LINDBERGH was born in 1944 and grew up in Duisburg.

During the 1980s, he revolutionized his métier with his iconic images of Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Nadja Auermann and other supermodels.


"Das Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in der chinesischen Hauptstadt Peking eröffnet am 1. April eine atemberaubende Photoausstellung mit Photographien des in Paris lebenden deutschen Photographen.

Unter dem Titel 'The Unknown' zeigt Peter LINDBERGH eine große Modereportage, die mit dem Thema einer Landung von außerirdischen Wesen auf der Erde spielt, zwischen Film und Fiktion, zwischen Mode- und Reportage-Photographie pendeln LINDBERGHs großformatige Bilder und halten die Phantasien des Betrachters auf ebenso unheimliche wie utopische Weise im Fluss.

Fritz Lang, Orson Welles und Ridley Scotts 'Blade Runner' lassen grüßen. Englisch-sprachige Ausgabe mit deutscher Textbeilage" (Verlagstext, © Schirmer / Mosel, 2011)