Today Juergen Teller’s first solo UK exhibition in a decade has opened at London’s ICA. The show, called Woo celebrates the last 20 years of Juergen’s career at the forefront of fashion photography, and his more recent journey into more project-based and personal artistic work. Spanning three rooms — one entirely collaged with Juergen’s magazine spreads that is described by members of staff as “Juergen’s brain” — the show is an interesting combination of some of his most personal shots, with some of his most fascinating commissioned pieces. An intimate, cherubic photograph of his daughter Lola at a young age is hung close to Juergen’s infamous photograph of Victoria Beckham seemingly being swallowed by a shopping bag.
This combination of intriguing editorial shots and very personal, more recent work makes for an extraordinarily exciting show. Upon entering the first room you are greeted with three impossibly large photographs of a nude, and spectacular Vivienne Westwood forming a triptych that almost takes your breath away. On the wall opposite is an enormous photo of a hunched, guitar-strumming Kurt Cobain — a photo that, personally, I recognised but never knew was one of Juergen’s.
A lot of the images in the show provoke this sort of reaction; you are met with wondering how it’s even possible that Juergen could have photographed so many contemporary icons in one career. Apparently, his constant snapping is down to sheer curiosity: “I’m just curious!” he exclaimed at the overcrowded press viewing “I wanted to photograph my arsehole because I had never seen it before!” The level of trust he builds with his subjects before photographing them is also evident in this selection of works. The famous picture of Bjork with her son swimming in Icelandic lakes was taken after spending a week with her at her family home, the image of Kate Moss crumpled into a wheelbarrow was taken after a similar period of time alone together.
It’s hard not to be a fan of Juergen’s entire back catalogue of photographs, some of which are the most intimate images we’ve seen, or ever will see, of modern-day icons. To see these alongside his new storyboard-like narrative projects is absolute thrill, and cements his position not just as a world-class fashion photographer, but one of the most important image makers working today. A must-see.
Juergen Teller: Woo runs from the 23rd January – 17th March 2013