Ellen von UnwerthPenelope Cruz, Paris
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About Ellen von Unwerth (Artist)
Ellen von Unwerth is a director and photographer whose bold and erotic images of women have left an indelible mark on the visual landscape of the fashion world. Born in Frankfurt, von Unwerth was a model in Paris for nearly a decade before turning to photography. Her 1989 images of Claudia Schiffer for a Guess jeans campaign, echoing the playfully feminine style of 1950s pinups, earned both Schiffer and von Unwerth wide attention. Over the years, her work has been featured regularly in magazines like Interview, Vanity Fair, Vogue, I-D, and The Face, appearing on covers and in both editorial and commercial contexts. In 1991, she won first prize at the International Festival of Fashion Photography.
Von Unwerth’s 1995 photoshoot of Drew Barrymore for Playboy magazine is among her most popular work and, coupled with an array of album covers for such artists as Janet Jackson and Britney Spears, gave her standing as a celebrity photographer beyond the borders of the fashion world. Von Unwerth’s pictures have a distinctive look and feel, with saturated colors and dense compositions, while also, in certain cases, paying homage to great photographers of the 20th century. The 2015 Tree of Love, Bavaria, in which a nude model reclines inside the heart-shaped hollow of an enormous decaying trunk, recalls Edward Weston’s sensuous use of the body’s geometry in his compositions. And the dramatically lit Tic Tac Toe from 2010, showing a scantily clad woman posing on a city street at night, evokes Helmut Newton’s atmospheric photograph of a model wearing Yves St. Laurent’s Le Smoking jacket, shot for French Vogue in 1975.
Von Unwerth has published several books of her photographs, including Revenge, in 2003, and Fräulein, in 2009. Those volumes have been joined this year by one showcasing the photos of her new series “Heimat,” in which she playfully combines visual tropes of traditional Bavarian life with her signature eroticism and wit. She is represented by several dealers, including the Staley-Wise Gallery, in New York, and Galerie Trabant, in Kitzbühel, Austria.