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(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)

Art

How the erotic photography of Ellen von Unwerth is reinventing sexual storytelling

Growing up in the spotlight of the catwalk as a supermodel before even such a term existed meant that Ellen von Unwerth knew all too well what it is what like to hold a gaze. Since she has entered the world of photography and is steadily subverting the way that gaze is cast in interesting and empowering ways that are changing the world of erotic imagery and adult storytelling.

In her collections, the pictures usually form a dramatic narrative as she revels in decadent worlds where flesh is celebrated along with flamboyance and a frisson of inherent humour. However, albeit that might sound like a lot is going on, the centrepiece remains the subjects, who, in their own way, have a separate intriguing story to tell.

As Ellen von Unwerth told Bazaar regarding her approach in 2018: “The women in my pictures are always strong, even if they are also sexy. My women always look self-assured. I try to make them look as beautiful as they can because every woman wants to feel beautiful, sexy and powerful. That’s what I try to do.”

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Far from a view of how she would like to have her images viewed, the power dynamic of the viewer and the viewed is seemingly switched by the bombastic way in which the shots are snapped and the porthole is reversed. Through that porthole, von Unwerth has placed the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Vanessa Paradis, Britney Spears, Eva Mendes, Lindsay Lohan, Dita von Teese, Adriana Lima, Carla Bruni, Eva Green, Christina Aguilera, Monica Bellucci and dozens more.

Part of her revolutionary way of looking at photography as a narrative form rather than a still moment to be captured comes in part from her unique position at having been on the other end of the camera when the industry was even more male-heavy. As she once remarked: “Technique undoubtedly helps make photography magical, but I prefer to work with atmosphere. I think that the obsession with technique is a male thing. Boy’s toys. They love playing.. but once you’ve perfected something, you have start searching for a new toy. I would rather search for a new model or location.”

With this in mind, she has sought out some of the most dazzling locations and faces the world has to offer. Often she harks back to decadent eras of old where the allure of fiction adds another layer to her playful images, and yet thanks to her unnerving use of colour or monochrome, the pictures remain contemporary. 

In her Taschen publications, from Olga to Fräueln, we see her unique worldview come to life with familiar faces hidden behind a historic guise. As the description for Fräulen explains: “Ellen von Unwerth’s knock-out collection of female sexuality, starring some of the most iconic women of our time including Claudia Schiffer, Eva Mendes, and Dita von Teese. Enter a world of femininity, playfulness, and fetish in which subjects intermittently flaunt or guard, but always own, their fantasies.”

You can find out more and secure a copy of your own by clicking here

The erotic photography of Ellen von Unwerth:

(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)
(Credit: Ellen von Unwerth)