Imperfect Beauty: Profile on Juergen Teller

  • Sumo

The majority of us associate fashion photography with glitz, glamour and more than a touch of gloss – most photographers strive for a flawless end product, featuring extensively styled and perfectly airbrushed models. Not so Juergen Teller, who built a name and reputation for himself with a distinctly different approach to photography and the traditional concept of beauty. Let’s take a closer look at the man behind the camera, and what makes his work so striking and special.

Juergen Teller was born in Germany in 1964, and studied at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Photography in Munich. He moved to the UK in 1986, aged 22, and it was here that he began his career as a photographer. Since then his work has appeared in countless fashion publications and exhibitions. The teller has brought his distinctive style to a list of top fashion brands, including Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang, Comme des Garcons, Moschino and Celine.

Imperfect Beauty

The Full Picture

Unlike his peers, Juergen Teller does not retouch his photographs, and aims to be true to his subjects rather than flattering them. Forget mood lighting and cutting-edge tripod cameras perfectly positioned to capture that pretty pout; Teller shoots his models using a Contax G2 camera with on-board flash, producing overexposed colour pictures that refuse to hide (and even dare to emphasise) their flaws. In addition to this unusual technique, Juergen Teller is also known for mixing his professional photographs with non-commissioned images, including family portraits and candid self-portraits.

Juergen Teller finds mainstream fashion photography utterly uninteresting, and says that airbrushed and retouched models have no human response. “I’m for the individual human being, not some plastic figure” he told New York Magazine in a 2008 interview. Teller shows his subjects as they really are – flawed, awkward, often vulnerable – and undeniably real.

Unforgettable Moments

With such an unconventional approach to fashion photography, one might think that the beautiful people of the fashion world would be anxious to avoid Juergen Teller and his all-too-truthful lens; however, some of the most revered names in fashion, film and music have been brave enough to work with the photographer, and the results, while seldom flattering, are always striking. Kate Moss, Bjork, Courtney Love, Charlotte Rampling and Sophia Coppola are just a few of those who have fallen for Juergen Teller’s inimitable style. Images like his bold nude portraits of Dame Vivienne Westwood, aged 68, and a young Kate Moss, tousled and pink-haired among her bed sheets, are prime examples of the unforgettable images produced by this unique and talented photographer. Juergen Teller has dared to turn the conventional idea of beauty on its head, and the results are undeniably special.