Smiling Ed, London 2005 © Juergen Teller, Mother with Crocodile, Bubenreuth, Germany 2002 © Juergen Teller, Vater und Sohn, Bubenreuth 2005 © Juergen Teller
The ICA is showing a major solo exhibition of photography by Juergen Teller. It marks the first survey presentation of Teller’s work in the UK in a decade.
When describing Teller’s photographs, the ICA’s executive director Gregor Muir says they are “some of the most memorable lasting images of our time”.
He is one of a few artists who has been able to operate successfully both in the art world and at the centre of the commercial sphere. From landscapes and family portraits to images of celebrities such as Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood, the exhibition covers it all.
Teller entered the London photography scene through the music industry, taking photographs for record covers. He shot the likes of Sinéad O’Connor, Björk and Nirvana, as well as images of various top models and celebrities. Teller’s photographs could be described as the antithesis of conventional fashion photography, seen perhaps most markedly in his campaigns for Marc Jacobs. He has shaped his own distinct and instantly recognisable style, which combines humour, self-mockery and emotional honesty.
Irene im Wald for instance consists of a series of photographs from a forest in his hometown in Germany, that he shot while on a walk with his mother. Teller explains that each photograph is supplemented by a text describing the evening he got held at gunpoint in London and refused to give all the money his mother had saved up for him, highlighting the strong emotional bond he shares with her. He says “It’s a love letter to my mother”.
Whatever the setting, all of Teller’s subjects collaborate in a way that allows for the most surprising poses and emotional intensity. When he is asked how he engages with them, he explains that he often gets to know them very well, and they tend to become friends. “It’s all about being honest, about explaining to them exactly what you want to do”. He takes the example of his Victoria Beckham photograph for Marc Jacobs, saying it wouldn’t have worked if he had just told her to come to LA, and get in a shopping bag with only her bare legs sticking out; it is really important to explain the idea, the concept behind the picture, the desired effect.
When asked to describe the evolution of his work, he says “my work hasn’t really changed that much, but now I’m more careful, and at the same time perhaps more confident and secure about what’s the right thing to do”.
Address: Institute of Contemporary Art, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH.