Ellen von Unwerth
b. 1954, Germany
Ellen Von Unwerth, one of the most universally liked fashion photographers, has based her careers on two key skills. The first is recognising raw talent and boosting the careers of little-known stars (Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova have a lot to thank her for). The second is her ability to help women lose their inhibitions on camera, resulting in empowered, often overtly seductive images where her subjects are in control. Whether Rihanna, Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham or Naomi Campbell, Ellen's women are always liberated and firmly in the driving seat.
Ellen von Unwerth gained wide attention with her sensual Guess
campaign in the early 1990s, followed by campaigns for Absolut, Agent Provocateur, A.P.C., Aston Martin, Baccarat, Belvedere, Chanel, Chantal Thomass, Crazy Horse, David Morris, Diesel, Dior, Elisabetta Franchi, Ferragamo, G-Star, Guerlain, H&M, Hysteric Glamour, Jimmy Choo, Lacoste, L’Oréal, MAC Cosmetics, Mary Katrantzou, Mercedes-Benz,
Miu Miu, Opel, Revlon, Rolex, Shiseido, Tommy Hilfiger, Veuve Clicquot, Victoria’s Secret, and many more.
She is a regular contributor to magazines all over the world, like Cosmopolitan, Egoïste, ELLE, Glamour, i-D, Interview, Lula, Numéro, Paper Magazine, Playboy, Stern, The Face, The New York Times,
Vanity Fair, and many international Vogue editions (American, French,
German, Italian, Russian). Furthermore she directed short films for clients like Azzedine Alaïa, Dior, Guess, and Katherine Hamnett, and a range of commercials and music videos.
Her book projects are an important part of her career: Her first book, Snaps, was published in 1994, followed by Wicked (1998), Couples (1999), the photo-novella Revenge (2003), Omahyra & Boyd (2005), Fräulein (2009), DieSpieler (2010), the photo-novella The Story of Olga (2012), and lately Heimat (2017).
Her works have been exhibited worldwide, and are
part of various collections, including The Museum of Modern Art and
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Her exhibition Devotion! 30 Years of Photographing Women was created for Fotografiska Stockholm in 2018 and it was one of the opening exhibitions at
Fotografiska New York in 2020, followed by Fotografiska Tallin. In 2018, the monographic magazine Ellen von Unwerth’s VON was launched internationally, both print and online.
Von Unwerth won several prizes, amongst others the first prize at the International Festival of Fashion Photography in 1991, a LUCIE award for her career achievement in Fashion Photography in October 2019, a Royal Photographic Society award in 2020, and an Iconic Photographer Influencer Award in 2021.
Von Unwerth's first notable work was when she first photographed Claudia Schiffer in 1989.Her work has been published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview, The Face, Arena, Twill, L'Uomo Vogue, I-D, and Playboy, and she has published several books of photography.
Von Unwerth did promotional photography for Duran Duran from 1994 to 1997 and did some photography for their 1990 album Liberty and 1997 album Medazzaland. Her work has been used on other album covers including Bananarama's Pop Life (1991), Belinda Carlisle's A Woman and a Man (1996), Cathy Dennis' Am I the Kinda Girl? (1996), Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope (1997), All Saints' Saints & Sinners (2000), Dido's Life for Rent (2003),
Britney Spears' Blackout (2007), Christina Aguilera's Back To Basics (2006) and Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits and Rihanna's Rated R and Talk That Talk. She also shot the cover of Hole's album Live Through This (1994).
She shows women in enticing ways without objectifying them. In an interview with V Magazine, she said: "I never force women to do anything, but I give them roles to play so they are always active and empowered. In a 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar, she explained her feminist approach to photography: "The women in my pictures are always strong, even if they are also sexy. My women always look self-assured. I try to make them look as beautiful as they can because every woman wants to feel beautiful, sexy and powerful. That's what I try to do."
Madonna, “Material Girl"
New York, 2014
120 x 180cm
Kate Moss, "Milk"
100 x 150cm