Monday, July 2, 2012

Charlotte Rampling with Juergen Teller

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 of frigidity.

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)

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