• Jeff Ascough

My Favourite Books: Shadows On The Wall by Peter Lindbergh



In 1995, I bought a book of images featuring, and curated by, supermodel Kate Moss. 'Kate' featured the work 80s and 90s fashion photographers Demarchelier, D'Orazio, Klein, Newton, Teller, Von Unwerth, Watson, Meisel, Knight, and many others. Looking at the photographs, what struck me was how similar the photographers looked to each other. Juergen Teller's images looked like Ellen Von Unsworth's, Mario Sorrenti's looked like David Simms, and so on. I'm sure this was down to Moss and how she liked to see herself, but amongst the glossy advertisement images, the slightly blurry portraits and test Polaroids, there was a portrait by the late Peter Lindbergh. The image was different to the others, it was Kate Moss the young woman rather than Kate Moss the supermodel. Bizarrely, my first edition of the book incorrectly credits the image to another photographer, but a slip of paper in the front dust jacket acknowledges the mistake and adds the correction.


25 years later, and Lindbergh is the only 'fashion photographer' that I collect in terms of books. His attitude towards retouching was a breath of fresh air in an industry obsessed with perfection. He broke many rules, innovated, and came up with a style and approach that was all his own. I guess this is one reason why I love his work so much. I like photographers who innovate and don't copy the pack. In 2016, Lindbergh shot the images for the 2017 Pirelli Calendar. I first saw these images in Vogue and on YouTube and was literally blown away by them. The use of light, the black-and-white processing, the use of famous (unretouched) female faces from every generation. When Taschen released those pictures as the book "Shadows On the Wall', I knew it was going to become a firm favourite of mine.


The book is 10.5x14.5", with matt heavyweight paper. The photographs are printed full bleed and are gloriously rich in tone with no colour cast. The printing is the finest I have ever seen in a book.


The images in the book are taken from the sessions Lindbergh photographed for the Pirelli Calendar. Each section features photographs from each model's photoshoot, and an occasional non-portrait image, along with a short testimonial written by the model. It's beautifully designed and leaves Lindbergh's photographs front and centre. The models include famous faces like Alicia Vikander, Charlotte Rampling, Kate Winslet, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman, and others.


The photographs are exquisite. There is nothing else to say about them. Lindbergh's use of light is extraordinary, and his command of the frame is exceptional. He can focus the eye exactly on what he wants you to see, even within abstract compositions. The images have been printed very deeply to allow Lindbergh's use of light to shine through in the mid-tones and highlights. The processing of the images is world-class.


This is a luxury photobook in every sense. Big, beautiful pictures with exquisite printing and elegant design. A book you could buy anyone interested in photography. The famous faces and noir feel give a sense of familiarity and style. However, if you look beyond the presentation and can absorb yourself in Lindbergh's eye, you will see one of the greatest portrait photographers that ever lived. Highly recommended.

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