Exact­ly two years have passed since one of those who can be called Mae­stro with con­fi­dence. Peter Lind­bergh passed away in Sep­tem­ber 2019. Only two years have passed, but his name is still on the lips, and pho­to books are fly­ing around. I per­son­al­ly could not buy the album, because the new edi­tion was sold out in a few days. A cou­ple more decades will pass, and noth­ing will change, even if a new star ris­es in the fir­ma­ment of pho­tog­ra­phy.

Peter Lind­berg

Great portrait painter

Lind­bergh was one of the most famous fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phers of our time. Only the word fash­ion does not fit in with him: yes, he shot for big brands and major fash­ion pub­li­ca­tions, only he shot just peo­ple, with­out a touch of gloss. On his frames are unknown or non-pro­fes­sion­al mod­els (of course, after that the whole world learned about them). He per­son­al­ly select­ed mod­els every time, he was trust­ed.

It’s all about the approach and style in which the mas­ter worked: mag­a­zines gave com­plete free­dom to shoot any­one and any­where, as long as they were pic­tures by his hand. I tried to sub­jec­tive­ly ana­lyze, to cal­cu­late what obeys the laws of art, in order to under­stand the com­po­nents of its style.

Random photographer

Lind­bergh became a pho­tog­ra­ph­er by acci­dent. His career as an artist did not work out, and the future mas­ter suc­cess­ful­ly turned up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a job as a pho­tog­ra­pher’s assis­tant in order to earn extra mon­ey. Then Lind­bergh’s cor­po­rate style is laid: unnat­u­ral­ness in pos­es and stag­ing in the frame are alien to him.

In the first com­mer­cial shot for US Vogue, lit­tle-known mod­els with tou­sled hair fool around on the beach in San­ta Mon­i­ca — and this is at a time when fash­ion pub­li­ca­tions were dom­i­nat­ed by the image of a woman with rich make­up and a croc­o­dile bag. Of course, at that moment he was imme­di­ate­ly shown the door.

Every­thing changed when Anna Win­tour became the head of Vogue, who found a pre­served Lind­bergh beach shot in the table. It was she who gave him com­plete free­dom to shoot as he want­ed, as long as it was a shoot of his author­ship: “This is the image of a new mod­ern woman.”

Var­i­ous Vogue cov­ers shot by Peter Lind­bergh

How did Lindbergh work?

Col­or and B&W! Don’t jump to con­clu­sions by look­ing at the first pic­tures in a search engine: Peter not only shot B&W, he also took col­or pho­tos. True, even at the dawn of a career. In the lat­er years of cre­ativ­i­ty, these were almost exclu­sive­ly black and white pho­tographs. I do not think that he was afraid of col­or or did not know how to work with it (ear­ly cov­ers refute this: the pho­tog­ra­ph­er com­pe­tent­ly inter­acts with col­or in the frame, in places there are notice­able clas­sic com­bi­na­tions). Most like­ly, he chose BW for the con­trast and the large palette of mid­tones that he can give. A black and white pic­ture shifts the focus to the per­son who is in it, regard­less of the sur­round­ing space.

In addi­tion, a black and white pic­ture removes the issue of col­or in favor of the work of light. And the last one in the Lind­bergh pic­tures is enough. Enough to call it one of his char­ac­ter­is­tic tricks. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er uses the game with shad­ows, tonal per­spec­tive, the con­trast of dark and light, the pat­tern of chiaroscuro.

Angles. Lind­bergh almost always worked at an angle of 90, a direct angle in front of the per­son. Not from the bot­tom up and not from the top down. There were excep­tions, but they were rare. Pho­tos not from the hip: the cam­era is at the lev­el of the tor­so or head of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er, even if he was shoot­ing from a tri­pod.

Lind­bergh built pho­tographs accord­ing to the gold­en ratio and the rule of thirds. He arranged the per­son in the frame along the axes. Although some­times Lind­bergh broke the rules so that the head of the mod­el rest­ed exact­ly on the edge of the frame, filled up the hori­zon to add dynam­ics.

Diag­o­nal ele­ments can also be seen in the mae­stro’s works: anoth­er trick to turn sta­t­ic into dynam­ics. The arrange­ment of objects diag­o­nal­ly imme­di­ate­ly makes the frame more alive.

Street shoot­ing. They do not take up much space in his port­fo­lio, but the way he works in the city is indica­tive. We are talk­ing about clas­sic street sto­ries when a cam­paign for a brand or shoot­ing for a mag­a­zine is done in a crowd­ed place. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er allows this place to remain nat­ur­al. He does not expect emp­ty streets or a pol­ished frame. Passers-by caught in the frame, peo­ple at neigh­bor­ing tables, smoke from hatch­es, signs, adver­tis­ing and pass­ing cars — all this is there, like invit­ed guests in his pic­tures. This tech­nique makes the main sub­ject of shoot­ing — the mod­el — con­trast.

Working with a person

To be youre­self. Prob­a­bly so, very briefly it is pos­si­ble to for­mu­late the main prin­ci­ple of approach to a per­son in Lind­berg’s frame. Ever since that card on the beach, the mas­ter has always allowed peo­ple to just be in the frame. With­out arro­gance and arti­fi­cial pos­tures. This is what makes his work so pow­er­ful!

There is an unwrit­ten rule in por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy: a good por­trait is one in which the per­son­’s pose is nat­ur­al. Oth­er­wise, it is not per­ceived by the eye: in real life, peo­ple don’t walk / sit / stand / etc. like that. Nat­u­ral­ness reveals a per­son. And yes, there he can already be lan­guid, sub­lime, cheer­ful, sad, fun­ny, ele­gant. But only if it’s about him.

Lind­bergh allowed every­one to be them­selves. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is impos­si­ble to ask the pho­tog­ra­ph­er him­self. Even clas­sic fash­ion shoots are still dif­fer­ent in mood. The lan­guid mod­el facial expres­sion, where it is present in Lind­bergh’s heroes, does not look feigned. It is like this because it is nat­ur­al. He is not a sculp­tor, he is an observ­er of a liv­ing per­son and his emo­tions. Peo­ple in Peter’s frame are hav­ing fun or being sad, think­ing, smok­ing or eat­ing, laugh­ing, fool­ing around and straight­en­ing their hair. They are nat­ur­al.