one legend to another, peter lindbergh documents the works of giacometti

The photographic icon opens up on Alberto Giacometti's sculptures, the power of fear, and how we can all become artists.

by Bojana Kozarevic
24 May 2017, 10:23pm

Alberto Giacometti, Group Of Nine, Zurich, 2016, 2016

To look at Giacometti's sculptures is a privilege, as it is to look at Peter Lindbergh's photography. So, we should feel especially lucky that the Gagosian's London space is hosting an exhibition of Lindbergh's photographs of the work of Giacometti.

In true Lindbergh style, these images are black and white, turning Giacometti's lithe sculptures into seductive monoliths.

Lindbergh's photography has captivated viewers for decades now. His name is synonymous with the 90s and the supermodel era; his images of Kate, Christy, Naomi, and Linda are the stuff of legend, and if anyone captured their power and glory the best, it was Peter.

But it's Lindbergh's eye for humanism that makes his photographs what they are. In that sense, then, it makes complete sense that he photographed another man's work; they are a portraits of Giacometti the artist, as seen through the things he created.

Alberto Giacometti's sculptures have an innate power that still captivates. Their elongated, riveting forms are instantly recognisable. They're surreal and real, intimate and bold. Very much like Lindbergh's work. We caught up with the photographer to discuss the collaboration, and the conversation that exists between a sculptor's work and a photographer's practice.

Alberto Giacometti, Buste de Diego (vers 1964-1965), Zurich, 2016, 2016

How did it feel to have photographed Giacometti's work so up-close?
I was so excited -- I have a special relation with Giacometti. I have seen his works, all of the films, everything -- he was a great man. But can you imagine how it feels to have all the stuff in front of you and to be able to photograph it? I was gleeful. You want to kiss your hand! I didn't want to wash them for a month!

What's so special about these works for you?
All of these sculptures, everything, it was all him. These sculptures are his vision. The incredible thing about artists is that if they have their own vision, what comes out of their body or brains is something so rarely seen. A lot of people just follow trends. 80% of what we see is not that original.

How could Giacometti know his whole life, that he was going to end up with this body of work? He only really started after the war, and I've learnt about his struggle as an artist. You see the struggle with himself, he hated it, but he always said "I'm not there". That is really amazing. To have that vision inside, and to push for it, is unbelievable. It shows that you work from your own. These sculptures show that.

Artists are struggling more than ever, especially financially, but everyone wants to create amazing works of some sort.
What is most important is that you have to find that place. People like Giacometti, who knew that place, know exactly what to do.

But what if you don't have that place?
Yes, yes, everybody has it. Sadly, some people can't go there. Everything you have seen, felt -- that lives inside of you, no? Sadly, if you have access -- you can be Da Vinci, but not everybody has that access. But the basic power inside them, I think everyone has it.

Alberto Giacometti, Femme debout (1961), Zurich, 2016, 2016

How do you feel, as an artist, taking pictures of another artist's work?
These are not just sculptures, though. There is something coming out of each one of these. Those sculptures are him. It's beautiful, no? Everything here was totally fresh -- nothing was sorted, or styled or angled. It was totally without thinking. It felt automatic. I was just shooting and worried about the details after.

How different is it to fashion photography?
It's not that different in a funny way. These sculptures are so filled with life. They are really alive. You see something in them. Their expressions are totally exciting. That is the same when I do my fashion work. I'm a fashion photographer. I always admit that, but really, I'm not. I have no interest in what the models are wearing. I want to see their faces.

Are there similarities between you and Giacometti?
Yes, when I talk about his struggles. I don't struggle anymore, but I have looked for that place. And I think… I've found it. You just know what to do. You know? It just happens.

Do you feel fear as an artist?
No, no, not anymore, although I used to. Also, there is that fear of encountering people, or when you shoot something you really adore or admire. You feel fear, but that feeling, I'm fine with it now. People often ask me if I want to stop -- I'm 72 now -- but what would I stop for? So I say no, especially as I handle everything better now.

In the nicest way possible, I don't need to impress anybody. The brain can work properly. Now people look at me, and I don't care. It's nice. All those fears and uncomfortable feelings have gone with age. You can go so much further when you feel like this. Fear holds you back. The most complicated things, you can get over them and after that, you know always what to do. That is amazing.

Alberto Giacometti, Femme debout (Poseuse I) (1954), Zurich, 2016, 2016

What advice would you give to young artists and photographers starting out?
Before you try to do something, try to feel what it could be, and feel what you can do with it and how it speaks to you. Don't let anybody else tell you what it feels like. If you try too hard to move, to impress, then you will only create more problems.

Do you think all artists are rebels?
Yes, but I'm a nice rebel. Of course they are, what else are you going to be?

What inspires you the most?
Everything. Because I'm independent, and it's not the shows or the fashion I am looking at -- I can really feel, I really feel free. I don't want to get stuck inside this world so no one can corrupt me.

What's the goal of the artist?
To express yourself. That is where creativity is, and I've used that word so much, but that creativity comes and you have to use it to express yourself. You have to connect it with yourself, or otherwise, or it doesn't mean anything. 

Read: Björk collaborator James Merry on the importance of imagination.


Text Bojana Kozarevic 
Photography Peter Lindbergh
All images © Peter Lindbergh
© Succession Alberto Giacometti
(Fondation Giacometti + ADAGP)
Paris 2017
Courtesy Gagosian

Alberto Giacometti
peter lindberg