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Flash Point

Talking with photography's bad boy, Juergen Teller, about his latest show, "Nurnberg," taking place at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

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NEW YORK — Is photography's bad boy going soft?

Anyone taking a look around Juergen Teller's latest show, "Nürnberg," at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery, might think so. There's an image of a burbling baby in a bath (Teller's 11-month-old son, Ed), a sleeping fawn curled up in the woods and photo after photo of tiny flowers pushing bravely through the cracks of monolithic Nazi ruins in the title city, Teller's hometown. Where are his infamously provocative shots? There is no naked Teller sticking his tongue into Charlotte Rampling's ear, and no frighteningly waxy closeups of Yves Saint Laurent grinning maniacally.

Not to worry. There, in the corner, is a shot of a nude Teller crouching in the snow — all well and good until closer inspection reveals he has captured himself mid-bodily function. On the facing wall is one of Kristin McMenamy calmly exposing her shaved nether regions to the camera in an outtake from the fall 2005 Marc Jacobs campaign.

Then, of course, there's the artist himself, who emerges bleary-eyed from the room where he is trying to hang the exhibition in time for last Friday's opening. Clad in a pink T-shirt and jeans, sucking needily on a cigarette, he musses his hair, which is already standing on end, and examines the photographs lying scattered across the gallery floor.

"Any drinks happening?" he pleadingly asks his agent, Katy Barker. "I'm really knackered," he offers, by way of explanation. "I've just come back from Japan, and then I was in London for three days, then Paris."

As he nurses a vodka and soda and grabs a fresh cigarette from behind his assistant's ear, Teller considers the photo of himself in the woods. "First of all, I am occupied physically, in my head, with changing my son's nappy. Always, every day. And it's quite powerful and overwhelming." He pauses, then continues carefully, "In a way this could be seen as a very gross picture, but I see it as a very innocent, romantic picture. It really just shows s-----ing in the snow, which is pure, and the struggle with going to the toilet. It's more a metaphor of how life is. That life can be nice, it can be difficult, but you have a responsibility in your life."
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