Critique

Expertise: Photographs by Karl Lagerfeld

The Foto.ua editor-in-chief Alexander Lyapin analyze the work of Karl Lagerfeld

In the section Expertise we discuss the celebrities who, besides their main profession, take deep interest in photography, and invite the pros to evaluate their success at that.
Today we have the Foto.ua editor-in-chief Alexander Lyapin analyzing the work of Karl Lagerfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld photo
80 years oldKarl Lagerfeld,

Born in 1933 in Hamburg, in the family of a bank associate. When he turned 19, he went on to study in Paris and very soon started climbing the career ladder: he became an assistant to Pierre Balmain, and then an art-director for the House of Jean Patou. Four years later he started working for the four houses of fashion at the same time — Chloe, Krizia, Charles Jourdan and Fendi. In 1974 Lagerfeld created his own clothing line, as well as accepted position of art-director for Chanel. His real name is Lagerfeldt. He slightly changed it in the early 60-ties to make it more commercial.

According to his own confessions, initially he just wanted to become an illustrator or an artist. Today the designer not only makes his own short films, but also organizes exhibitions, publishes books, does guest-editing for various fashion magazines, participates in designing of high-end hotel suites, creates illustrations for novels and costumes for theatre plays, and even tried himself as a DJ in the computer game «Grand Theft Auto IV».

Passion For Photography

In 1987 Karl began photographing — he started making advertisements for various fashion brands and doing photo shoots for Vogue, Interview, Numero. He worked with Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford. However he decided not to limit himself within the field of fashion, and accepted other gigs including those for Adidas and Volkswagen.


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He received a Lucky Strike Designer Award in the early nineties, took the 1st prize at the German festival of Art Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fotografie, and recently have been awarded France’s Legion of Honor at the Elysee palace for his input in art and culture. Today Lagerfeld expresses that photography became a very important part of his life, considers the very process of photography «sacred» and speaks of it as of «the art of creating dead reality». He’s admitted that he doesn’t see his life without photography: «I look at the world and the fashion through the prism of the camera. It allows me to see way more than I can possibly imagine».

Once he earned his good reputation as a photographer, Karl published an album named Visionaire 23: The Emperor’s New Clothes. It included shots of David Miller, a male model from South Africa. In 2006 in Berlin a new photo-exhibition opened up. It was called One Man Show and displayed about 350 photos and installations, all of which featured Brad Kroenig — the highest paying fashion model among men of that time.

In 2009 Karl Lagerfeld, with the support of the founder and the editor of Another Magazine Jefferson Hack produced the album Another Fashion Book. The album featured 150 photos by Karl, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims and Nick Knight. At the same time Lagerfeld came up with a calendar for Marie Claire Italia, which pictured Anna Mouglasis and Baptiste Giabiconi as legendary actors of Italian cinema Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigita and Marcello Mastroianni. In 2011 Karl became the author of famous calendar Pirelli.


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One of the latest projects of Karl is the book «Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited». This book is Karl Lagerfeld reinterpretation of Chanel’s iconic little black jacket. Lagerfeld has redesigned the jacket, transforming it into a modern, adaptable garment to be worn by both sexes of all ages. The Little Black Jacket contains Lagerfeld’s photographs of celebrities wearing the jacket with individual flair — sometimes classic, sometimes irreverent, but always Chanel — and each styled by Carine Roitfeld. A range of accomplished actors, musicians, designers, models, writers and directors gets the little black jacket treatment, including Claudia Schiffer, Uma Thurman, Kanye West, Tilda Swinton, Baptiste Giabiconi, Yoko Ono and Sarah Jessica Parker. This book shows versatility of Chanel’s vision in Lagerfeld’s hands, and ensures the little black jacket’s future as a timeless classic.

Last year in Paris Karl organized exhibition titled «The Glory Water» where he displayed numerous drawings and photographs of Roman fountains taken during his trips to the Italian capital.

«Lagerfeld’s images only last as long as the fashion magazine editions where they have been published»
Alexander Liapin photo
57 years oldAlexander Lyapin,

Was born in 1956, lawyer by education. Alexander worked as a photojournalist in International agency GP. Chief editor of the online magazine Foto.ua, the author of plenty articles on photography.

In his photoworks Karl Lagerfeld is very self-controlled, strict, even boring. You can’t expect an emotional adventure from him, or a bold experimentation, searches for form. The style of his photos is shaped by the commercial need to sell his product. Once he took it too far — put a few strippers on a catwalk and definitely scared away the fashion editors. Ever since he stopped drawing too much attention, maybe at times he curses at the models but that’s pretty much the extent of it.


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He is quite an expert when it comes to art therefore he chose to remain within the interpretation of the classic theme as it is the safest and the most esthetically advanced field. The example of it is Pirelli calendar of 2011. Stone-cold Gods and Goddesses project limited and appalling necro-eroticism. Surrounded by many great photographers, he ended up in their shadow and under their influence. He can hardly be called a Newton of photography. Photos by the famous fashion designer are cowardly attempts to copy the titans of photography. Karl’s images don’t stick with you for long. Only as long as that fashion magazine edition where they were published does. Even Lagerfeld’s homoerotic creations are too primitive and banal to be remembered, as much in their poses as in the collection of accessories. Naked Giabiconi projects coldness and incredible boredom during his advertising session for shoes and bath robes. Even though it seems that some photos were inspired by the idea of the auto-portrait of Newton in the hospital and they should have turned out quite alright. Well, they didn’t.

As a designer Lagerfeld is an artist, but as a photographer he turns into a boring and practical promoter of goods.

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