The lens behind the camera | DCM

Jean Michel Vecchiet’s poetic portrait of Peter Lindbergh

On March 12, 2013, Peter Lindbergh walked through the gates of Marion Prison in Florida to photograph death row inmates. What lead the photographer of the most beautiful women in the world, the father of the “Supermodels” to place a camera in front of the faces of murderers, among them a young woman? Was there something buried in his past that lead him to this intrigue in death?

These are the questions posed by director Jean Michel Vecchiet in his highly intimate documentary on the groundbreaking photographer. ‘Peter Lindbergh – Women’s Stories’ is the culmination of an unprecedented 25 years research from Vecchiet, forming a uniquely comprehensive portrait of the world-famous artist. With the help of personal accounts from the women closest to him, the film reveals how Lindbergh became one of the biggest names in photography in the 20th century. It raises the fundamental questions, how and why does one become an artist? What is hidden behind images? And where does this creative force come from, this force that escapes all logic and resists analysis?

In the words of the director himself: “The photographs of Peter Lindbergh may contain the fundamentals of what drives an artist to create a conscious and unconscious heritage of his work. That’s how ‘Peter Lindbergh – Women’s Stories’ was conceived and realized.”

Just as Lindbergh redefined the genre of portrait photography with his pioneering realism, so too does Vecchiet challenge the boundaries of documentary itself. The mirror narrative of the film sees Lindbergh’s two worlds collide: accounts from stars, actresses, models and muses, who for so many years were magnified under the photographer’s lens, are intertwined with those of the women who shied from the camera’s flash – sisters, wives, friends, collaborators. The double story leads us into a labyrinth of the artist’s world, drifting between the conscious and unconscious, and serving as a kind of cinematic psychoanalysis. With this “mise en abyme”, assembled through collected writings, photographs, anecdotes and a poetic narration that hovers on the peripherary of the real and imaginary, Vecchiet liberates his subject from the constraints of genre.

Since the late 1970s, Jean-Michel Vecchiet has been the subject of numerous exhibitions in museums and festivals all over the world. Since 1997, he has also become a director of report and documentaries. His films have been broadcast in more than fifty countries, among them: Basquiat: A Life, Iran: A Power Unveiled, Lives and Deaths of Andy Warhol, Photographers of Mao, Peter Lindbergh: a Portrait, Marc Riboud: The Man Who Walks.


Director Jean Michel Vecchiet, Jackson Pollock’s studio

Produced by DCM Film, ‘Peter Lindbergh – Women’s Stories’ will be celebrating its world premier at the Berlinale in February, where Vecchiet and Lindbergh themselves will take to the stage.