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ANOTHER COMEBACK: Walter Pfeiffer, the cult, Zurich-born art photographer, is having another renaissance — this time as a fashion photographer. At 63, Pfeiffer has just completed two editorials for French Vogue, with one photo landing on the June cover. “I am an artist who by coincidence came into vogue,” he mused. Having recently done editorial work for I-D magazine and Vogue Homme, Pfeiffer is now in demand and applying his style as an artist, illustrator and filmmaker to the fashion realm. “I have always surrounded myself with beautiful and creative people. I see beauty everyday — it can be a person or a landscape or an object,” he said.
For the French Vogue shoot with models Eva Herzigova and Magdalena Frackowiak at the Meurice hotel, Pfeiffer stripped away artifice for high-octane images, often with an off-kilter crop. “I am classical but experimental in my work,” said Pfeiffer, who still uses a Contax medium-format 35 mm camera, “I don’t do digital.”
Pfeiffer’s old-school technique produces greater realism in the images, as the zeitgeist returns to more natural beauty and wearable fashions.
“I don’t want to shoot hundreds of film, I have it after four clicks,” he said. Indeed, Herzigova remarked Pfeiffer’s rapid-fire approach was reminiscent of the late photo great Helmut Newton.
Pfeiffer’s interest in fashion was crystallized at a young age. “I would go to the library and leaf through Harper’s Bazaar and U.S. Vogue and look at the beautiful images — I always had style and a feeling for fashion,” he said.
However, Pfeiffer became a graphic designer, then an illustrator and followed this up with his now cult homoerotic photos taken in the Seventies.
There has been an exhibition at the Swiss Fotomuseum Winterthur in Zurich and he has five books to his name. The latest is a retrospective entitled “In love with Beauty,” published at the end of 2008 by Steidl. “I am a one-man band. I like to do it mostly myself,” he chirped. Still, Pfeiffer has signed up with the agency Art + Commerce and is with Paris-based contemporary art gallery, Baumet Sultana.
He’s also returning to one of his first loves, drawing, “Next I am going to publish a book of my drawings,” he said, then quickly added, “maybe the phone will ring tomorrow for another shoot.”
— Natasha Montrose