From the moment Ellen von Unwerth picked up a camera in the mid-1980s, she has held the fashion world captive with a style that is at once elegant, evocative, and erotic. A former model, she began by snapping photos of her model friends, but soon after, von Unwerth emerged as a rising fashion star, shooting for Vogue and, by 1989, the edgy campaigns for Guess that made Claudia Schiffer a household name – an ad campaign that von Unwerth continues photographing to this day. Her riotous and seductive images have filled four books (one forthcoming) and appeared inside and on the covers of almost two decades’ worth of fashion and celebrity magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, I-D and V. The German – born mother of one will no doubt go down in fashion history as a pioneering female photographer, but it is her almost preternatural sense of what is sexy that separates her from all the rest.
Ellen von Unwerth’s work offers a distinctly sexual and playful version of fashion and beauty photography. In addition to her career as fashion photographer, film-maker, and video director, her work has been collected in numerous books and two photo-novellas. Von Unwerth’s first book, Snaps, was published in 1994 followed by Wicked (1998), and Couples (1999). Her photo-novella Revenge was published in 2003 accompanied by exhibitions in New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. Her photographs have been widely exhibited internationally including in Archaeology of Elegence (2001-2), and Fashioning Fiction exhibited at MoMA/Queens in 2004.
After a decade as a fashion model, von Unwerth brought a first-hand knowledge of the kinetic energy of fashion photo shoots to the creation of her own photographs. Her sensual campaigns for Guess in the early 1990s launched von Unwerth’s commercial career, and subsequently she has created campaigns for Baccardi, Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Diesel, Chanel, Miu Miu, Blumarine as well as a series of publicity advertisements for HBO’s Sex and the City. Von Unwerth has also ventured into directing short films for Azzedine Alaïa and Katherine Hamnett, music videos for artists such as Duran Duran and commercials for Baccardi and Clinique.