Fashion Photographer Peter Lindbergh Dies at 74

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
Peter Lindbergh

Meghan Markle, Charlize Theron, Cindy Crawford and others on Wednesday paid tribute to Lindbergh, who ushered in the supermodel era of the 1990s.

German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh — best known for his black-and-white photographs of candid supermodels — died Tuesday. He was 74.

The news was shared on his Instagram account with the note, “He leaves a big void.”

Lindbergh rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s during the supermodel era by shooting the likes of Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. One of his most famous photos captured Linda Evangelista, Rachel Williams, Tatjana Patitz, Karen Alexander, Christy Turlington and Estelle Léfebure in 1988 for Vogue. The black-and-white image was taken on the beach in Santa Monica with the stars donning just underwear and oversized white blouses. Musician George Michael was struck by the photos before creating the video for “Freedom! '90," and as Lindbergh has said, the image “ushered in a new era.”

“They were practical women who had plans and ambitions to fulfill in their lives. I chose the beach because it’s a flat and homogeneous backdrop, allowing me to concentrate on what really interests me about a women: her face,” he told Vogue Italia.

Lindbergh worked most recently with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, on her guest-edited September issue of British Vogue. He shot the 15 cover stars, including Jane Fonda, Gemma Chan, Laverne Cox and Yara Shahidi, marking his first cover shoot for British Vogue since the September 1992 issue.

“His work is revered globally for capturing the essence of a subject and promoting healthy ideals of beauty, eschewing photoshopping, and preferring natural beauty with minimal makeup,” the Sussex Royal Instagram account posted Wednesday. “There is no other photographer she considered to bring this meaningful project to life. ... He will be deeply missed.”

Lindbergh often spoke out against the use of Photoshop and retouching, saying, "This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection."

Born as Peter Brodbeck in 1944 in Leszno, Poland, Lindbergh grew up in Duisburg, Germany. He left school when he was 14 years old, got a job as a window dresser at a department store, and later attended Berlin’s Academy of Fine Arts in the 1960s to study art. Inspired by Van Gogh, Lindbergh moved to Arles for a year and then went hitchhiking through Spain and North Africa, according to his website. He changed his name to Peter Lindbergh after discovering another photographer named Peter Brodbeck. In 1978, he moved to Paris, and later lived between Paris, Arles and New York. 

Lindbergh was influenced by American photographs during the Great Depression to develop his signature black-and-white style, he has said. “My imagination was indelibly marked by the blunt realism in the faces immortalized by documentary photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans,” he said. “Although humans see reality in color, for me, black and white has always been connected to the image’s deeper truth, to its most hidden meaning.”

Lindbergh became the only photographer to shoot three Pirelli calendars. His most recent, in 2017, featured Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Uma Thurman, Kate Winslet and Robin Wright, among others.

“This calendar is still, at its core, a celebration of beauty, but about what Lindbergh sees as a ‘different beauty, more real and truthful — not manipulated by commercial interests,’” GQ wrote.

Several Hollywood stars who Lindbergh worked with took to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute. Charlize Theron tweeted, “My heart is broken. Peter Lindbergh was a genius and an absolute master of his craft. Beyond that, what made him truly one of a kind was his consistent kindness, warmth, and incredible sense of humor. One of the best human beings I have ever met. I will never forget you my friend.”

Wrote Crawford, “When @therealpeterlindbergh shoots, it’s about the women. It’s not about the hair, makeup, or styling, really. He had a way of turning your imperfections into something unique and beautiful... and his images will always be timeless. you will be so missed Peter. I’m honored to have known you and worked with you.”

Added Campbell, “Your kindness and generosity of giving me your home in Paris while mine was being put together !! Oh Peter so many memories of 33 years that my heart right cannot tell.”

In 2011, IWC Schaffhausen hosted a celebration with Lindbergh in Culver City to honor his work, attended by Sylvester Stallone, Emmanelle Chriqui, Rob Lowe, Patrick Dempsey and Josh Duhamel. He also photographed Cate Blanchett and Reese Witherspoon.

Lindbergh shot fashion campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Dior and had his art shown at exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Bunkamura Museum of Art in Tokyo. His book, Peter Lindbergh. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography, was released in 2016 with 400 images alongside notes by Jean Paul Gaultier, Anna Wintour and Crawford.

Lindbergh is survived by his wife Petra, first wife Astrid, four sons (Benjamin, Jérémy, Simon and Joseph) and seven grandchildren.