In his new exhibition “Enjoy Your Life!” at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Juergen Teller presents photography with emotional impact
“He’s such a chav.” That’s how an art historian friend of mine (who will here remain anonymous) answered a text I sent informing her that was currently taking part in the press conference for the exhibition opening of “Enjoy Your Life!” at Martin-Gropius-Bau. And sure, the question of whether or not Juergen Teller’s photographs belong in a museum is certainly warranted.
Now I believe that it’s about something completely different here. Curator Susanne Kleine’s words are poignant. She may be painting things with a rose-colored brush, but she’s right: The moments that Teller chooses to present work on the emotions. And he says so himself: “The one and only thing I’m interested in is the interaction between two people. One of those is me, the photographer. And when these encounters move me, then it’s good.” He prefers to capture what “is close to him.” Anything else doesn’t make sense and isn’t authentic.
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The honesty, transparency, remarkable openness, and “remarkable truth” with which he presents the seemingly banal all distinguish his work. His family appears again and again, including the unforgettable image of his son as a baby on the changing table or the series Irene im Wald (Irene in the Forest) from 2012. Photography gave him the chance to experience things and create an adventure that may otherwise not exist. That especially goes for the magazine shoots, which are shown in two separate rooms in the exhibition: Kanye, Juergen, and Kim, Château d‘Ambleville from 2015 and Waiting for Rihanna fresh from 2017. In both cases he takes his protagonists into nature, to places you wouldn’t discover on your own (a laboratory for the production of medical marijuana).
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Personal anecdotes are exchanged in the series shown in the entry area, I Love My Mum, I Love Germany created in 2016 for Arena Homme+. Former German President Joachim Gauck invited him (with a guest) to Bellevue Palace. His mother Irene, with whom Teller has a very close relationship, was thrilled and offered reason enough to document this special trip. She got a kiss from Peter Lindbergh, sat with actor Lars Eidinger in Paris Bar, and enjoyed diving into another world for just one evening. It’s here that Teller’s playful instinct comes to light, a curiosity for life and one to show it first and foremost as it is – but at the same time, also to successfully seek out scenarios that don’t necessarily fit into a normal routine.
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His feel for composition is unique, and often copied. There’s nothing closer to the zeitgeist, and when it’s so wonderfully relaxed and down-to-earth then so much more of it can be presented to the viewer – no matter if the exhibition itself doesn’t appear complete and, here and there, maybe a little thin. I’m completely sure that it doesn’t affect him. He’s already shaped and influenced the way the fashion industry sees – and surely modern photography itself – far too significantly for that.
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The Exhibition “Enjoy Your Life!” by Juergen Teller is on show at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau from April 20th until July 3rd.
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.