Cherchez la Femme

When I first saw this photoshoot in Vogue Paris (May 2009 issue), I was ready to put everything I have on the person who shot it. I was 100% the photographer was Juergen Teller, because I could see all the signs of his style:  the lighting quality, the bare-faced model, the wall paper, the velvet-upholstered chairs, the damask bedspread and so on. Being a huge fan of Teller’s work, I couldn’t be mistaken. Well, if I had really bet on him, I would have lost everything, because the one behind these pics is Walter Pfeiffer, a Swiss photographer I’ve never heard of before.  An underground artist for years, he has developed a very personal style (a unique blend of eroticism and wit, classical serenity and ornamental playfulness, artifice and immediacy) and has influenced later artists such as Terry Richardson and, of course, Juergen Teller.

Cherchez la Femme [1] is his first work for Vogue Paris, where amazing flower prints and patterns are the protagonists.  The model is Eva Herzigova, who has grown into a mysterious and intense woman, very different from the naive and pin-up-esque beauty she was in the Nineties. Her stare is disquieting in some pics, but elsewhere she’s sexy and funny, too.

I love the visual complexity of this pic, the way different patterns clash and match at the same time. The zebra carpet contrasts with the marble on the wall, the white anemones and the skull-printed skirt. One of the reasons why I think this photoshoot is appealing, is the quirky accessorizing. In this pic, Eva is holding a Gripoix cilinder-shaped coin purse and a plastic bag with some golden fish in it.

In the pic she’s also wearing a D&G pleated lame blouse, with ruffles at the neck and waist, and Chloe Percy bow sandals.

This shot is so funny: Eva is on all fours, her blonde hair in movement and a little cage, with a bird inside, on her bottom. Her pose is so extravagant! The accessories here are Yves Saint Laurent vintage pieces. Doesn’t the gold bag recall the shape of a cage?

Here she’s wearing a Kenzo flower-printed dress and pants, and Dolce & Gabbana sandals.

Different flower prints rule this outfit, while the pic is focused on a metal cage hanger (the ‘cage’ theme again). Here we can note that Eva’s face is bare, but I wish she wasn’t so skinny. The outfit is Seventies-inspired and this touch is visible in her hairstyle, too, echoing Farah Fawcett’s and Agnetha Ase Fältskog’s (ABBA’s blonde singer) hair.

She’s wearing a chiffon Bally dress and an Isabel Marant lovely cotton vest.

It has already been said that all the photos were shot indoor, in what looks like a Parisian apartment. All the walls are covered with paper, the furniture is ancient, upholstered with velvet or damask; the idea we get from this setting is connected to reclusion and closure from the outside world, but at the same time it introduces a sort of parallel world, where a blonde woman can spend her days dressing up and playing around. The bed Eva is sitting on, for example, has a damask head and so is the bedspread. The golden tones of the fabric is amplified by the clothes the model is wearing, by the gorgeous yellow bag and by the daisies she’s holding in her hand.

I love this oriental-looking outfit: the silk jacket and pants are by Etro, while the beaded silk bag is Dolce & Gabbana Vlada style, which is part of their fall/winter 2009 accessory collection. Have they named it after Vlada Roslyakova? The keyhole-shaped closure is so cute.

This pic is set on the bed, again, but in this case Eva is playing with some firecrackers. She’s sporting another Seventies-inspired outfit.

The flower-printed chiffon dress – by Roberto Cavalli – is sublime, so Laura Ingalls; a beaded Etro vest is put on it.

Here comes Eva’s sexy – and humorous – side: she’s sitting on a marble and wood cupboard, holding the tops of chinese vases on her breasts. The pic is ruled by flowers – the ones painted on the vases, the red and purple anemones in the vases, the flower print on Missoni silk dress. Eva is also wearing a Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal beaded torn jacket.

This shot so reminds me of Juergen Teller’s photography! The model is lying on a yellow carpet and on some blossoming cherry branches. The flower theme is recurring – look at the Gerard Darel pants she’s wearing, and at the motifs on the carpet. The sequined jacket she’s wearing is by Balmain.

Balmain jacket is lovely, but Margiela’s one is beyond gorgeous, it’s a work of art. It looks like a jacket torn to pieces, but everything is hand-made and hand-embroidered.

The glamourous atmospheres of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette film inspired this shot, where Eva is sitting on a chair, tasting some whipped cream from a petit four. The pink birthday cake on the left is named ‘Marie Antoinette’ and is a Ladurée creation, as the pink macarons surrounding the cake. Eva is wearing a camellia-printed Chanel dress, a I’m Isola Marras blouse and a tassel belt.

This shot is amazing. I love the different flower prints of the dress and of the scarf on Eva’s face, I love her pose and the silk couch she’s leaning on. Her veiled face reminds me of the veiled dancer in Prince’s Kiss video.

This is the last shot of the set. Eva is leaning on a sofa wearing a stunning Versace dress, from the spring/summer 2009 collection. The print is by the famous artist Julie Verhoeven (who also worked for Vuitton in the Nineties). The yellow sofa is covered with cushions, some of which are Versace vintage pieces. Colourful shoes and bags are scattered around Eva, on the floor.

Here are the dresses she wears in the last shots.

When someone asks me why I write so often about fashion photography, I always reply that leafing through the pages of a photospread is like reading a fascinating story by images, images you can interpret as you like and dream about in endless ways. Cherchez la Femme has so many beautiful things to dream on, that was well worth a post!

[1] This is a French phrase which literally means “look for the woman”. It comes from an Alexandre Dumas novel, The Mohicans, and embodies a cliché of detective pulp fiction (a woman is often the root cause).

Source, source and source.

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7 comments

  1. Am I dreaming of this or did Julie Verhoeven also work for Miu Miu ( I recall some bags with fairies…but maybe I’m crazy!)
    The recurrent theme of the cage (the bird, the goldfish in the bag) and your comment about the luxurious decoration of the apartment made me think of a ‘golden cage’ (gabbia dorata?) from where you can’t excape…sort of like Marie Antoinette!
    As for the dresses, I love the Versace one (I’ve always liked that type of top), and also the Chanel and Cavalli ones, they have such a hippie feel to them!

  2. Julie Verhoeven has recently worked for Mulberry but not for Miu Miu. Maybe you have in mind the Prada Fairies bag, but in that case the artwork was by James Jean.
    You’re absolutely right about the idea of the golden cage. The reference to Marie Antoinette is emphasized by the decoration of the rooms, the Ladurée pastries, the luxurious jewellery and clothes.
    The Versace dress is to die for, but I also love Cavalli chiffon dress. It’s really sheer, so I think I’ll never wear it in real life (maybe with a chemise), but it’s gorgeous!

    1. A friend of mine, who can actually make macarons, shares your same opinion. She follows Pierre Hermè’s recipe for macarons and the result is stunning. I’ve tried to make them, but it’s too difficult and complicated for me.

  3. Looks like a work from Teller. This Pfeiffer is not a god photographer , justa a copier….and Vogue France looks like a catalogue from La Redoute. Horrible! Eva looks greater than ever indeed.
    XXX

    1. I also thought it was a work by Teller. The problem is that Pfeiffer started working as a photographer before Teller, so I think he actually influenced Teller (and Terry Richardson, for the record). I’ve seen other works by Pfeiffer and they’re not impressive, in my opinion.

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