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A new exhibition of Ellen von Unwerth’s legendary photographs

She is known for her playful, provocative photos that celebrate the female form in all its glory, but Ellen von Unwerth insists that she’s ‘not the exhibitionist type’. 

Thank goodness, then, that after ten years as a model, she swapped the spotlight for life behind the lens. It was a decision that launched not only her own career, but also led to her taking images that made those of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other supermodels. 

Since making her breakthrough aged 35, von Unwerth has become a major player in the world of celebrity photography, shooting stars including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Ray and working for brands such as Dior and Chanel. 

Ahead of a major retrospective, she tells the stories behind five of her favourite photographs. 

‘Ladyland: Fine Art Photography by Ellen von Unwerth’ is at Opera Gallery, 134 New Bond Street, London, May 4-18, operagallery.com

Claudia Schiffer, Los Angeles, 1991. ‘I met Claudia very early in my career. I photographed her doing everyday things like walking her dog and going to the bakery’ 

BABY YOU CAN DRIVE MY CAR 

Claudia Schiffer, Los Angeles, 1991 

I met Claudia very early in my career. I photographed her doing everyday things like walking her dog and going to the bakery. I thought she was cute. It was only when I got home and looked at the pictures that I thought, “Wow, she has an incredible resemblance to Brigitte Bardot!” I called her back and dressed her up as Bardot in my tiny apartment, pushing her look with heavy eyeliner and big hair. After sending the pictures to fashion brand Guess, I landed the campaign that gave us both our break in the fashion industry. 

Naomi Campbell, London, 2014. 'In this moody Agent Provocateur campaign, Naomi is playing a retro private detective'

Naomi Campbell, London, 2014. ‘In this moody Agent Provocateur campaign, Naomi is playing a retro private detective’

WATCHING THE DETECTIVES 

Naomi Campbell, London, 2014 

In this moody Agent Provocateur campaign, inspired by David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Brian De Palma’s thriller Body Double, Naomi is playing a retro private detective. The other shots see her hunting for clues, brandishing handcuffs and it ends with her posing nonchalantly near a sinister-looking shovel in a dark garage.

Eva Herzigova, New York, 1994. 'Eva took a cigarette break on the bed, holding the dress in front of her. The result was this dreamy juxtaposition of her nude body and the dress' 

Eva Herzigova, New York, 1994. ‘Eva took a cigarette break on the bed, holding the dress in front of her. The result was this dreamy juxtaposition of her nude body and the dress’ 

SMOKIN’ HOT 

Eva Herzigova, New York, 1994 

Eva was trying on a dress for the next picture but we couldn’t get it to do up – she was too voluptuous for the top. The stylist abandoned the idea, and while he was choosing something else, Eva took a cigarette break on the bed, holding the dress in front of her. The result was this dreamy juxtaposition of her nude body and the dress.

David Bowie & Kate Moss, New York, 2003. 'Bowie and Moss had never met before they posed together for this portrait. But he was immediately protective of the model' 

David Bowie & Kate Moss, New York, 2003. ‘Bowie and Moss had never met before they posed together for this portrait. But he was immediately protective of the model’ 

REBEL REBELS 

David Bowie & Kate Moss, New York, 2003 

Bowie and Moss had never met before they posed together for this portrait. But he was immediately protective of the model, putting up a hand and assuming a harried expression as if batting away oncoming paparazzi. It was spontaneous – you can’t plan that. There was an instant warmth between them. It was that emotion I really loved. 

Elle Macpherson, New York, 2004. 'It proved that a model dubbed The Body can wear anything – or nothing – and make it look elegant'

Elle Macpherson, New York, 2004. ‘It proved that a model dubbed The Body can wear anything – or nothing – and make it look elegant’

 

RISE AND SHINE 

Elle Macpherson, New York, 2004 

We had an idea of shooting Elle eating breakfast in a very fancy evening dress so it looked like she was having a glamorous moment in a very casual setting. But the dress was too long, so we decided to replace it with the newspaper, which was, obviously, a much shorter option. It proved that a model dubbed The Body can wear anything – or nothing – and make it look elegant.

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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