Juergen Teller “Enjoy your life!” at Fotomuseum, Winterthur
Juergen Teller navigates the boundary of art and commercial photography, putting the portrait at the heart of things. Whether in the realms of music, fashion, everyday life or landscape, his distinctive feel for individuals and situations allows him to create visual compositions with an immediacy that is sometimes deceptively simple. Deliberately and implicitly breaking with visual conventions and expectations, his works neither idealise nor romanticise. Juergen Teller (born 1964) is one of today’s most internationally renowned photographers and his works, often in the form of large-scale series, are widely published in books and magazines.
Having had to abandon his apprenticeship as a bowmaker (he comes from a family of instrument makers) for health reasons, Juergen Teller studied at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Photographie in Munich. In 1986, he moved to London to work as a freelance photographer and started taking pictures for music, lifestyle and fashion magazines. His breakthrough came in 1991 when he accompanied the band Nirvana on their Nevermind release tour and his photographs of the shy lead singer Kurt Cobain were published.
Ever since, Juergen Teller has been permanently navigating the boundary of art and commercial photography, deploying portraiture as his stylistic device. Whether in the realms of music, fashion, VIPS, everyday life or landscape, his distinctive feel for individuals and situations, for milieus and clichés allows him to create visual compositions with an immediacy that is sometimes deceptively simple. On closer inspection, his seemingly laid-back and casual imagery proves to be artistically crafted and his compositions well-balanced. Deliberately breaking with convention to challenge our ways of seeing and undermine our preconceptions, Juergen Teller does not indulge in sentimentalised visual strategies. Through the intimacy of his portraiture, he orchestrates some quite extraordinary photographic encounters.
Consciously distancing himself from the unabating glamour of fashion and celebrity photography, Juergen Teller has carved a high-profile niche for himself. In his campaigns for leading fashion labels, he has staged actors, supermodels, pop idols and other stars in new and unexpected visual roles. One memorable example is his Kanye, Juergen & Kim series, shot at Château d’Ambleville in 2015. The opulent 2013 publication Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano: Juergen Teller, Antonio Guida, Will Self features images that highlight the creations of Michelin-starred chef Antonio Guidas at his Tuscan hotel and restaurant. Teller applies the same artistic principle to his non-commercial works.
“What I am ultimately, even solely, interested in is the interaction between two people. One of them being me, the photographer. And if such an encounter stirs something in me, then it’s good.” His shoots with Charlotte Rampling, for example, are based on a playful sense of sheer enjoyment, which has grown into unconditional mutual trust, as evidenced by his latest photographs Charlotte Rampling, a Fox, and a Plate (Teller) taken at his new London studio.
Juergen Teller insists on up-close and personal authenticity from the subjects of his photography. His tirelessly honest and transparent approach calls for tolerance and curiosity also on the part of the viewer. He operates his camera, the set, the props and most of all his lead characters like a film director, and it comes as no surprise to find that he sometimes gets another person to actually trigger the shutter when he himself has a role in the scene. “Everything in a wide sense is a kind of self-portrait. It’s just the way you see things and you’re curious about certain things and just excited about them,“ says Teller. In his series Plates/Teller (2016–), all his previous themes and compositional elements converge in a concentrated way. As a storyteller, he reflects the medium of photography as a mirror of society and explores its media impact in an almost intuitive way.
at Fotomuseum, Winterthur
until 7 October 2018