Part of: In Camera

Interview: Juergen Teller

published on 8 December 2004

Celebrated for his arresting and often confrontational imagery that debunks the glamour of traditional fashion photography, in December 2004 Juergen Teller became the second world-renowned fashion photographer featured as part of our prestigious In Camera interview series.

This interview was showcased online with a series of live stills updated throughout the course of the interview, and a real-time transcript typed and edited live.

Celebrated for his arresting and often confrontational imagery that debunks the glamour of traditional fashion photography, in December 2004 Juergen Teller became the second world-renowned fashion photographer featured as part of our prestigious In Camera interview series.

47 Q&A Posts

Q. There is an image in your current exhibition at Modern Art where you and your wife are pictured standing either side of an estate car, much in the way that Mrs and Mrs Andrews stand in front of their country estate in the Gainsborough painting. Are you asserting yourself as the new society painter? Penny Martin, Editor in Chief, SHOWstudio, London
First of all, it's not an estate car. It's a Mercedes 500CL. It's for me the perfect family portrait where I've put everything: the car, the wife and the kid. It's a happy photograph. It's my state of mind.

Q. Why do you think you became a photographer? Alison, New York
I really don't know. If I think for a second, I guess I wanted to explore the world.

Q. Why do you think you have been successful? Pol, Barcelona
What is success? If you are content with yourself, then it's a success.

Q. Dear Juergen, do you ever feel that you use people? Tracey Emin, London
Of course I use people and people use me. That doesn't mean it's in a negative way whatsoever. As much as I use, I give. When other people use me, they give me something as well.

Q. In your opinion, does talent come from hard work or are you just born with it? Wulan, Jakarta
You are born with it. But you have to work hard on yourself.

Q. What most inspires you to press the shutter? Peter Bannan, New Zealand
Strange question. I'm not really interested in the shutter.

Q. Has Helmut Newton influenced your work? Charles Warren, South Carolina
Not really. 

Q. Juergen, do you find that your work is criticised more zealously now that your are positioning yourself as an art, rather than purely a fashion photographer? Lou Mensah, Photographer, London
I don't consider myself as an art photographer. Nor as a fashion photographer. I consider myself as a photographer who produces work. I am interested in many things. But your question has a point. People want to put everyone in one cupboard because it's easier for them to deal with.

Q. Are you competitive? Krasi, Genova / Sofia, Bulgaria

Q. Which painters have influenced you? Cristina, America
Many things influence me in life. I couldn't recall one particular painter.

Q. Do you think you have been influenced by the work of Wolfgang Tillmans? Santiago Forero, Columbia
I like some of his work. Whenever I like somebody's work, whether it's a painting, a film, a book or whatever it might be, it has impact somehow deep in your psyche, or in yourself.

Q. Do you have any message that you wish to communicate through your work? James Tregaskes, London
To be yourself.

Q. Your work provokes extreme reactions. What makes you invite hostility towards you? Abby Kirkwood, Sutton
I don't think it's so extreme. I just try to do what I believe in.

Q. Where do you see yourself within contemporary German photography? Nacho, Barcelona
I am not concerned about countries and borders.

Q. Hallo juergen, sehnst sich du dich manchmal nach deutschland? [Hello Juergen, do you sometimes feel a longing for Germany?] Lars, London
Of course I do. Whenever I miss it too much, I go. I go quite regularly.

Q. Do you think there is any social value in your work? Does it benefit anyone? Pino, Milano
I think there is. If it helps you to find your own individuality, which I always try to push within my work, free from any preconceptions, to try to find yourself. That's an extremely difficult thing to do for a lot of people.

Q. Who do you think you are kidding? Jason Evans, Hove
Fuck off.

Q. Does your status as a well known photographer make the challenges of your personal work more difficult to fulfill? David Pineda, East London
No it doesn't.

Q. Does politics have a place in fashion? Anna Parker, Essex
You can be politically aware whatever you do.

Q. Why have you decreased the amount of fashion editorial you publish? Angelica Maszil, Barcelona
Because I don't have so many ideas. Only when I have one I pursue and try to publish it.

Q. Juergen, when conducting a fashion shoot do you prefer working with models or 'real people'? Rachael Opp, London
It changes all the time. They are all real people to me.

Q. Which designer is the most enjoyable to work with? Ivan, New York
Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang.

Q. Why is it necessary to credit yourself at the bottom of every ad campaign? Aaron Tan, Singapore
Why not?

Q. Do you find your ad work more satisfying or your personal work? Kath, Australia
What do you think?

Q. What's your day rate for a 'commercial shoot' like your Helmut Lang or Marc Jacobs work? Mike, London
You'll have to call my agent.

Q. Personally I believe what we all do as photographers is performance. With your last series of photos of you and Charlotte Rampling, the pictures were taken by someone else presumably under your direction. If you are relinquishing control through the lens you are therefore taking a step toward pure performance as both director & actor. Are you conscientious of this and can you be persuaded to go further and perform a piece for our webcams? Nick Knight, London
I am in complete control. People don't ask a filmmaker 'did you really shoot this film?' just because there was a cameraman? And Nick, I don't know what a webcam is. If you have any ideas, why don't we do something together?

Q. Why Charlotte Rampling? Joelena, North Carolina
I am an old friend of hers and I love her.

Q. Hotel rooms are a constant setting for your A-list sitters. What do they add to your portraits? Heather, Nylon Mag, NYC
Well, they are just in them.

Q. As a film/advertising director I get 200% out of my cast supposedly! How do you as a photographer get your sitter's attention to detail as you would want it? Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong
I am just there with them. Talk to them, engage with them, work with them, eat and drink with them, have a good time with them. Being involved with them and them with me.

Q. Do you sleep with your models? Christine, Athens
Yes, with all of them.

Q. Hello Juergen, Why do you appear naked in so many of your pictures? Is this a statement about yourself or possibly about the representation of the body in photography? Do you dislike clothes or are you perhaps a little turned on by exposing yourself to such a large audience? Simon Foxton, West London
It's about being pure and honest. At certain moments, I didn't want to deal with what certain clothes mean. It helped me to be more direct. I am not turned on by exposing myself to an audience.

Q. How do you know if you have gone too far? Nick Knight, London
It hasn't happened yet because I wouldn't go to certain places where it's uncomfortable for myself or for the sitter. I am very conscious of being responsible to myself and to others.

Q. What is private for you? Scott Denton-Cardew, Portland
That is private.

Q. Describe your relationship with Kate Moss? Jose Nunez, Madrid
She is a friend. We have known each other for about 15 years and have spent good times working and playing together.

Q. Does your current photographic technique bear any resemblance to your formal training? Faith Bowman, Chicago
My formal training was very conservative. I spent two years in photo college, learning to work with a large, medium and 35mm camera, learnt how to develop black and white films and print colour and black and white. It was a solid education.

Q. What kind of cameras and lights do you use? We are students from India. Pat, Mumbai
Contax G2 with a flash on top.

Q. In an era defined by the moving image, how do you see photography maintaining its relevance? Thymaya Payne, Los Angeles
Is the moving image defining our era? I think photography remains as relevant. What are you talking about?

Q. How do you get away with just using compact cameras? Yau Kiu Chan, Hong Kong
I get away as fast as I can!

Q. Has taking photographs become easier in the digital age? Nico, Australia
I don't know. I don't work digitally. Taking photographs has nothing to do with the medium.

Q. Do you ever feel obligated to be "Juergen Teller?" Are you trapped by your own career? Kate, Oregon

Q. Do you ever feel insecure about the work you are producing? Georgios Mavrikos, London
Of course. At certain moments, if you are insecure, then it becomes exciting. You don't know where it's going. That's the interesting bit. You have to push yourself where it's unsafe. It's very exciting.

Q. Hast Du schon einmal daran gedacht mit dem Fotografieren aufzuhören? [Have you ever considered quitting photography altogether?] Boris, Deutschland
No. As long as I am excited about life. There needs to always be a reason why you take a picture in the first place. You have to think very hard before you want to take a photograph. There is always something in life that I want to explore.

Q. Do you believe in Jesus? Jared, Los Angeles
Not really.

Q. What advice do you have for young photographers, starting out in their careers? Mark, Leeds
You have to know why you want to take a picture in the first place. And that's a hell of a difficult question. If you don't know, don't start.

Q. Sag mal Jürgen, was sagt denn eigentlich deine Mama zu deinen Sachen? [Tell me, Juergen, What does your Mum actually say about the subject of your work?] Dirk Messner,
Some things she likes. Somethings she has enormous problems with. But I try to discuss it as much as I can with her. But I don't expect her to fully understand everything about it. But if I can help, explaining it to her, that's a good thing.

Q. I prefer to ask questions in person, so instead I am sending you my warmest regards. Nobuyoshi Araki, Japan
Thank you. I am coming soon. Love

Interview by:



Interview: David Bailey

12 February 2003
Acclaimed fashion and portrait photographer David Bailey answered questions from SHOWstudio viewers with Penny Martin. Broadcast 12 February 2003.

Interview: Nick Knight

23 March 2006
SHOWstudio director and leading image-maker Nick Knight sat down with Penny Martin to answer questions from the public. Broadcast 23 March 2006.

Interview: Peter Saville

29 May 2003
Legendary art director and graphic designer Peter Saville responded to questions from SHOWstudio viewers with Penny Martin. Broadcast 29 May 2003.
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