ELLEN VON UNWERTH


One of the most renowned contemporary female photographers, Ellen von Unwerth perfected her craft and built a tremendously successful career, gaining worldwide praise for her depiction and empowerment of women as subjects rather than objects.

At the beginning of the 1990s, when Hollywood actresses dominated magazine covers around the world, the German photographer contributed to the birth of the “Supermodel” cult. Ellen von Unwerth is the photographer who helped launch the supermodel Claudia Schiffer in the early 1990s, first in a picture for ELLE and later with the Guess campaign that gave them both a big break in the fashion industry.

From these beginnings, she has been pivotal in turning fashion models into icons. As both a woman and a former model herself, Ellen von Unwerth is in a special and privileged position in understanding her subjects. The photographer keeps pushing the limits of her art, celebrating female form, playful personality and overt sensuality, empowering women by presenting them as strong, free and independent.

In all her work, Ellen von Unwerth’s charismatic and impish personality is ever present. Through her artistic process the unbridled personality of the subject is explored, revealed and then captured. The results are a body of work idiosyncratically saturated with an evocative whimsy, strident energy and emancipated eroticism.

With this online exhibition, Opera Gallery leaves you with Ellen von Unwerth herself, who will walk you through these artworks, as landmarks of her exceptional career.

This was a shoot for American Vogue and we shot it in Paris. It was during an amazing moment in time when Naomi was already a huge star, Kate was blowing up and they were having a lot of fun, partying nonstop. We had a tonne of looks to get through but I shoot very fast so we ended up running out of clothes. So I said: ‘Just put these hats on!’ and we shot them playing around in the bathtub, sipping champagne. The whole shoot was really just a party. I think this photo is so cute because it really captures the friendship between them and that cheeky naughtiness they share. I love it for that.
Bathtub, Paris, 1996
Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell for Vogue USA
C-print on Fujiflex paper
120 x 180 cm - 47.2 x 70.9 in
Available
Pudding, Paris, 2011
C-print on Fujiflex paper
70 x 100 cm - 27.6 x 39.4 in
Available
Tree of Love, Bavaria, 2015
C-print on Fujiflex paper
70 x 100 cm - 27.6 x 39.4 in
Available
Parasol, Deauville, 1990
Claudia Schiffer for Vogue Italy
Black and white inkjet print on baryta paper
230 x 150 cm - 90.6 x 59.1 in
Available
When I first shot [Claudia Schiffer] for Elle, they asked me to shoot this new German girl for a story on what models do when they’re not working. She was tall and beautiful and I see many girls like that, but when I went home and looked at the pictures I saw this incredible resemblance to Brigitte Bardot which got me very excited. I’m a big fan of movies and I love 1950s-1960s films – I love Marilyn Monroe and Sofia Loren and Brigitte Bardot, for me, is the most beautiful woman ever. So seeing that resemblance was very, very exciting. I booked her the next day again and gave her that Bardo-esque makeup and hair and the pictures were candid and reportage style. The first campaign I shot with her was for Katherine Hamnett and later I shot her for Guess, which was such a success. It was surprise to me and everybody that it was so successful. It was the real start of both of our careers.
The Mask, Paris, 1991
Nadja Auermann for Vogue UK
Black and white inkjet print on baryta paper
230 x 150 cm - 90.6 x 59.1 in
Available
Naomi Campbell, New York, 1994
For Naomi Campbell’s album cover Baby Woman
Black and white analog print on Baryta paper
100 x 70 cm - 39.4 x 27.6 in
Available
I’ve always loved to portray women who are strong, who are playful, who are self-assured, and who really own their sexuality, which is why I love working with Claudia, and Naomi, and all those girls.
Rich Bitch, Paris, 2004
Bianca Balti for Vogue Italy
Black and white inkjet print on baryta paper
120 x 120 cm - 47.2 x 47.2 in
Available
Milk, 1995
Kate Moss for Vogue USA
C-print on Fujiflex paper
180 x 120 cm - 70.9 x 42.2 in
Available
Icons, New York, 2003
Kate Moss and David Bowie for Q Magazine
Black and white inkjet print on Baryta paper
180 x 120 cm - 70.9 x 47.2 in
Available
One of my favourites exhibition is perhaps the one I did of Kate Moss and David Bowie because I was such a fan of his. I was so proud and happy to meet him and spend a few hours with him. It’s an iconic image. I don’t think they knew each other beforehand and it was their first time shooting together. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so. They’re both so lovely, generous, fun and outgoing that the three of us just felt we knew each other before.
ROAR!, London, 2016
C-print on Fujiflex paper
120 x 180 cm - 47.2 x 70.9 in
Available
Crash, New York, 2004
Elle Macpherson for a Jimmy Choo Campaign
Black and white inkjet print on baryta paper
230 x 150 cm - 90.6 x 59.1 in
Available
I love beautiful women, I love to show their personality, their sexuality. It’s fashion photography, but with fewer clothes.
Peaches, Rouilly-le-Bas, 2002
Black and white inkjet print on baryta paper
150 x 230 cm - 59.1 x 90.6 in
Sold
I don’t want to objectify women, or cast them only in this ‘sexy’ light. I want to see every side of them. There are so many sides to women. That’s why some of my best shots come when the girls think the camera has stopped rolling, you’re seeing something different to what they give you when they know they’re being watched, a vulnerability.
Morning Dew, Paris, 2012
Black and white analog print on baryta paper
150 x 230 cm - 59.1 x 90.6 in
Available