“I’ve been looking for freedom”, so it resounds on New Year’s Eve 1989 over the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Above the heads of hundreds of thousands of listeners, David Hasselhoff in a flashing leather jacket sings the song that is said to have literally brought the Berlin Wall down. At this version of the events, the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl would have shaken his head violently. No, it took a little more than just sing a song. Nevertheless, Hasselhoff gave German reunification a hymn, a voice. A wall had fallen, and more should literally follow. A time full of lightheartedness, naturalness and rebellion had dawned.
This is also evident in fashion, which reflects the zeitgeist. It’s called: Goodbye shoulder pads, puff sleeves, gold buttons, aerobic body – hello nineties. Clothing styles are mixed wildly – haute couture with denim, leather with wide skirts. It is also the time of exceptional photographers who capture what fashion means in this time. Among them were Ellen von Unwerth, Juergen Teller and Peter Lindbergh. What they all had in common was that although they placed great value on aesthetics, they emphasized the individuality of the models.
In the 1980s, people were obsessed with perfectionist glamor and clichéd poses, but models are now being booked who no longer appear as nameless clothes racks. Suddenly, interesting and colorful characters are in demand. The supermodel phenomenon was born, with Kate Moss, Tyra Banks and Claudia Schiffer among the main protagonists. With them, photographers venture into new territory. They capture the emotions of the models in their recordings and even put them in front of the camera without make-up. Naturalness, imperfection and everydayness take on a completely new meaning. Fashion photography is becoming more daring than ever, more personal than ever.
A picture taken in 1995 shows a Kate Moss kneeling in front of a well-stocked, open refrigerator. A bottle of milk in her left hand, she wipes her mouth with her right. She is only dressed in a pearly white lace nightgown and a light brown coat. It’s a staging, but also a confidential moment that testifies to the strong intimacy between photographer and model. It was shot by the German fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth, who is known for her playful and seductive imagery.
What’s going on behind the scenes gets interesting
Intimacy also plays a big role in backstage photography, which became popular in the 1990s. Moving, rehearsing and putting on make-up are now motifs in campaigns and editorials. The look behind the scenes of the fashion industry is fascinating and makes the models look more realistic. Photographer Juergen Teller focuses on reduction. His motto is “less is more”, which is why he keeps his pictures minimalist. Jeans and a calm white tank top – that’s all it takes to convey a sense of fashion. The photographer Peter Lindbergh, who died two years ago, adds a timeless and cinematic aesthetic to the whole. He presents models with hardly any make-up and in monochrome outfits in front of the camera or stages group pictures that convey a feeling of self-determination and rebellion. It is said that he treated the models with respect. His pictures tell authentic stories in black and white format.
The paint is peeling too, and styles like grunge and heroin chic are emerging. The models show pale skin, dark circles under the eyes, emaciated facial features. All traits associated with substance abuse. The Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino mainly poses androgynous models in front of the camera. This throws traditional notions of “sexy”, gender and sexual orientation overboard.
In the meantime, photographs from the 1990s have achieved a timeless character. They are provocative and encourage rethinking ideals of beauty and femininity. During this time women begin to gain control over their sexuality and become more self-determined. Their bodies, which are still extremely slim, are depicted less artificially and appear more realistic. That makes them welcome role models for many young people. Men are also becoming part of campaigns themselves for the first time and are subsequently sexualized.
At the same time, photographers overturn old conventions at a time when brands are beginning to spread globally. Suddenly her recordings pave the whole world. Young designers and stylists practically turn the seams inside out, while art directors and hair and make-up artists appear for the first time. It is a time of fearless creativity. Fashion, music, entertainment and visual arts merge with one another – and especially in the group shots, the models grow beyond themselves and become icons of freedom.