One of his most well known early photographs, shot in 1988 for a Comme des Garçons campaign, shows three robotic-looking models dwarfed against the overwhelming scale of the machinery in a steam-era factory. The image crystallizes the enormous political, industrial and cultural changes, which occurred in Europe at the end of the 1980s.
Peter Lindbergh was 27 when he picked up a camera for the first time. Shortly afterward, he became an assistant to photographer Hans Lux. By 1973, after completing a two-year apprenticeship with Lux, he began working independently as an advertising photographer. His early images were characterized by a preference for black and white film, which continues to comprise 60% of his work. They were ripe with spontaneity, and his models' expressions lacked the artifice prevalent in fashion. The early work had a strong narrative quality. In 1978, after Stern Magazine published his first fashion series of photographs and demand for his work became overwhelming, he moved to Paris.
Lindbergh's photographs have since appeared in every major fashion magazine published, including Italian, French, British and American Vogue, W, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Stern, and Rolling Stone. Until January 1997, much of his editorial output appeared in Harper's Bazaar. In 1992 Bazaar signed a contract with Lindbergh, an unprecedented move at the time. During the last ten years, and some still today, he has photographed the advertising campaigns for the foremost designers in America and Europe, including Giorgio Armani, Prada, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Hugo Boss.His first book, Ten Women, a black and white portfolio of ten top models of the moment, was published in 1996 and has sold more than 100,000 copies. The second, Peter Lindbergh: Images of Women, a collection of his work from the mid-1980's to the mid-1990 's, was released in 1997. Writing about it for London's Independent Sunday Review Magazine, Ian Phillips praised the book's stunning imagery, calling Lindbergh "the worlds greatest fashion photographer." In late April 1999 Peter Lindbergh, a portfolio-style collection of his most recent work, was released by Editions Assouline in Europe and the United States.
Lindbergh's original photographs first became available to collectors in 1996 through a series of international gallery and museum exhibitions. "Peter Lindbergh: Photographs", an exhibition of 200 photographs tied to the book Images of Women, has toured Europe and Japan.Lindbergh is also a distinguished television commercial director. Many of his commercials have involved such fragrances as Guerlain "Champs-Elysées" with Sophie Marceau, Calvin Klein," Eternity" with Christy Turlington, Jil Sander "No.4," with Linda Evangelista, Giorgio Armani "Gio," Lancome "Tresor," Coty "Manifesto" with Isabella Rossellini, and Karl Lagerfeld's "Sun Moon Stars" with Daryl Hannah. He directed his first documentary-length film in 1991. "Models-The Film," was shot in New York with Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz and Stephanie Seymour. He photographed the 1996 Pirelli Calendar with Nastassja Kinski, Tatjana Patitz, Carré Otis, Eva Herzigova, Kristen McMenamy and Navia, then he photographed the 2002 Pirelli Calendar with among others Brittany Murphy, Mena Suvari, Kiera Chaplin and Selma Blair.Among the many personalities he has photographed are Hilary Swank, Sharon Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Deneuve, Brad Pitt, Ashley Judd, Uma Thurman, John Malkovich, Charlotte Rampling, Samuel Jackson, Joaquin Cortès, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Gena Rowland, John Travolta, Pamela Anderson, Antonio Banderas, Milla Jovovich, Cate Blanchett, Connie Nielsen, Adrien Brody, Asia Argento, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez, Jeanne Moreau, Vincent Perez, Penelope Cruz, Chiara Mastroianni, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Scarlett Johanssen, Kirk Douglas, Dennis Hopper, James Coburn, Salma Hayek and Pedro Almodovar.In March 1996, in connection with what was reputedly the biggest advertising contract in history, Lindbergh was invited by Peter Arnell to direct several commercials and print advertising campaigns featuring Tina Turner for Hanes.
On the Paramount Studios lot in L.A., he also directed the music video for the track of her hit release at the time, "Missing You."In 1997, he was presented the International Fashion Awards prize for Best Photographer, conferred in Paris by a jury of over 400 of the most important names in the fashion industry. His collaborators, Make-Up Artist Stephane Marais and Hair Stylist Odile Gilbert were also awarded the top distinction in their fields. Lindbergh was honored with the same award in 1995, when he also became an Honorary Member that year of the highly exclusive German Art Directors Club. In October, 1996, in Berlin, he was conferred the Raymond Loewy Foundation's Award, Europe's most important design honor.In 1999 Peter Lindbergh was asked to direct a short film on the subject of his choice. "Inner Voices", a 30 minute drama-documentary on the nature of "Self-expression" in the world of acting, was premiered in Milan and subsequently in New York. It has since been screened at the 'Locarno Film Festival' August 2000 and the 'Edinburgh International Film Festival' August 2000. In 2002 "Inner Voices" was awarded 'Best documentary' at the 'International Festival of Cinema' in Toronto. In 2001 Peter Lindbergh was commissioned to direct an experimental film on Dance for the UK's Channel 4 on Pina Bausch.Considered one of the great masters of black and white photography, Peter Lindbergh is acclaimed for his cinematic images, which have redefined the world of fashion photography with their compelling realism, lack of pretension and ineffable depth of emotion."