Juergen Teller with Charlotte Rampling from Louis XV, Juergen Teller, 2004
It is the stuff of fashion folklore that the photographer developed a
taste for hot pants while shooting the spring/summer 2004 Marc Jacobs
campaign with the actress Charlotte Rampling. "I was thinking, Charlotte
Rampling, she has to have a grand environment," Teller says. "And I
knew she wouldn't be interested in just doing merchandising for a
fashion house. I had to come up with something that went beyond that,
something that would interest her, otherwise she would turn it down."
To complicate matters – and fortuitously, as it turns out – Teller, a
busy man by anyone's standards, had been briefed to shoot both a
womenswear and menswear campaign for the designer in question. Why not
combine the two? And why not – or "fuck, why not?" as he puts it – cast
himself in the male role?
"I was very selfishly thinking: I'm going to be the man. I want to be with Charlotte Rampling." What guy wouldn't, after all?
"Then, I got to Paris," – having agreed on a suitably grand location,
a suite at the Hotel Crillon – "and to my complete horror I couldn't
fit into any of the clothes. I was too fat."
His eyes widen. "I was really stressed out about it," he says. "I
thought, oh God, what am I going to do now? My desire to be with
Charlotte, that drive, had overtaken me to the point where I had
overlooked that problem completely and it just wasn't going to work."
Salvation came in the form of a pair of silver satin pants – "they are
quite like these ones", he says, pointing at his shorts, "they were the
only thing I could get into". Rumour has it, he wore them religiously
from that day forward.
Whatever, a series of unforeseen – and potentially insurmountable –
events resulted in some of the most arresting fashion images that had
been seen for years. Here is Teller, in an unmade bed with Rampling,
curled up, nearly naked and submissive as a small child in her arms. In
another image, the actress rests her beautiful head in his silver
shorts-clad lap. The pictures are both tender (suggestive of a love
affair more than anything illicit), thought-provoking (Teller, the
gentlemanly soul of discretion, says he doesn't know how old Rampling
is, but it is safe to assume that she is approaching 20 years his
senior), and humorous (he might be scantily clad in all his stocky glory
but she is fully clothed to the point of prim).
But perhaps most remarkable of all, this was not a personal art
project but a commercial exercise: the most important promotional
vehicle for America's most important designer, no less, destined to be
published in every glossy fashion and style magazine across the globe.
Compare it to the product-focussed, coolly aspirational – and some might
say alienating – biannual campaigns that come courtesy of most fashion
brands, and this is a different beast entirely, one that, not to put too
fine a point on it, makes most advertising appear sterile to the point
Didn't he feel exposed – physically or psychologically – by the publication of these pictures?
"What do you mean?" he asks. Teller can make any question approaching
the censorious appear ridiculous. "I was in bed with Charlotte
Rampling. I felt like the king of the castle."
(this and more from The Independent)