With his big solo exhibition in the Kunstpalais, Juergen Teller returns home and therefore to the roots of his international career. Coming from a family of instrument makers Teller had to give up his apprenticeship as a bow maker for health reasons. He then studied photography in Munich and moved to London in the middle of the 1980s to become a freelance photographer. His pictures of Kurt Cobain, the shy frontman of the band Nirvana, which he took while he accompanied the band on their release tour of Nevermind, led to his international breakthrough.
Also Teller’s fashion photography has been something unique right from the start in the early 1990s. His unadorned, intimate portraits of supermodels like Kate Moss and Kristen McMenamy were a shock to the public. They show Teller’s talent to demystify glorified characters by capturing their nature in pictures that show intimate moments. This artistic strategy is still characteristic for Teller’s work and made his photo shootings with Charlotte Rampling legendary.
This new style that Teller established by contrasting everyday intimacy with a clear, almost documentary aesthetic distinguishes his photography and awarded him with a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg.
Despite his success in the glamorous and often surreal world of fashion and art, Teller has never lost his rural down-to-earth attitude. In his new exhibition, which he created especially for Erlangen and the Kunstpalais, his Franconian homeland will be a frequent motif. He deals with his own roots: Erlangen and Bubenreuth as well as his family are an explicit topic.
Alongside stars like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West his mother Irene, his aunt Gisela and Artur Teller are often subjects of his photography. By connecting the artificiality and absurdity of the world of fashion with bizarre but charming elements from home Teller is consequently subverting the commercial side of his work – one example being the pictures he took for a catalogue of a jewelry auction that was held by Phillips de Pury & Co. in spring 2005. Instead of shooting professional models presenting the gems, Teller booked his own family and thereby broke with the tradition and aesthetics of the auction house. In recent years it was mostly his mother Irene who served as a link between those contrary worlds. On stage with a Japanese metal-band or wearing the latest creations of Teller’s fashion partners she connects the photographer’s origin with his present.
Erlangen and the world, the world and Erlangen – this characterizes the exhibition in the Kunstpalais that Teller himself calls ‘bizarre and romantic’.
Image: Juergen Teller, Irene Teller, Detail, Bubenreuth 2016, Copyright and courtesy the artist