The Wild Ones, 1991
A troupe of some of the world’s most famous and beautiful women is clad in leather hats and biker garb. These women are elite models from around the world. They stand, all together, in the middle of an empty and wet, industrial Brooklyn street, returning the viewer’s gaze. Unknown to the photographer or the models themselves, this iconic image would help generate the supermodel phenomenon.
Changing Fashion Photography
By photographing the most recognizable faces in fashion together, Peter Lindbergh helped change fashion photography. Embracing the “au naturale” and countercultural energy of the 90’s while removing the artifice of previous fashion photography norms, Lindbergh’s photographs mythologized these models as effortless and eternal rebels within the fashion industry. Presenting their arresting and forthright beauty in intimate, unretouched pictures, they captured the aura of the multicultural and alternative 1990’s. As a result, Lindbergh’s photographs created the original “supermodels,” who reigned as royalty in the decade’s visual culture.
Peter Lindbergh, who, with an illustrious career spanning over four decades, is considered one of the most influential photographers in fashion, passed away in 2019 at the age of 74. He was born in Lezno, Poland, and was raised in Duisburg, a city in western Germany. In his early years, Lindbergh studied at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts and later, inspired by his idol, Vincent Van Gogh, moved to Arles. After that, he continued to pursue an arts education at the College of Art in Krefeld. Subsequently, Lindbergh moved to Düsseldorf, working at Stern magazine along with legendary photographers Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. In 1978 he moved to Paris, further establishing his artistic presence in the fashion industry.
“It should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.” – Peter Lindbergh
The Wild Ones, 1991, includes the “elite” eight supermodels of the era, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder, and Stephanie Seymour. Lindbergh captured the epochal energy of the 1990’s, full of excitement and freshness, that paralleled the impact of Richard Avedon’s pictures of the 1960’s.
A New Look for a New Era
As the story goes, George Michael saw Lindbergh’s pictures and cast the “supermodels” in his Freedom! 90′ music video. As a result of the video, Gianni Versace sent the models walking down the catwalk lip-singing Michael’s song. This event created an unforgettable moment that changed fashion forever by proliferating the models’ images throughout the world until they became the true definition of beauty for the decade. All of this, ultimately informed by Lindbergh’s vision. Peter Lindbergh became one of the titans of the 1990’s, as his pictures ushered in a new look for a new era. Fresh, spontaneous, and authentic, Lindbergh’s repertoire was the definitive aesthetic of the 90’s.
“I wanted to move away from the rather formal, quite perfectly styled woman who was very artificial… I was more concerned about a more outspoken, adventurous woman in control of her life… The supermodels represented this change.” – Peter Lindbergh
Transcending Time and Style
Peter Lindbergh’s original black and white style is responsible for creating memorable covers from the most significant fashion magazines of his time like Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, or Vogue. At the same time, museums and top international collectors have collected his work. Today, The Wild Ones attains the status of modern iconography. The picture epitomizes strength, beauty, and vitality. Ultimately, a major, rare to find picture, it helped redefine the fashion world and modernized the media’s presentation of models. The Wild Ones is unequivocally a Lindbergh photograph and a historic moment in fashion that transcends time and style.