My dear friends, as I continue my coverage of the photographers Mylene has worked, Ellen Von Unwerth is definitely the one whose work you have noticed from just browsing an internet. The reason is most likely a slight shock and at the same time your mouth is probably salivating as your heart skips the beat… somewhere between the mental confusion and the feast for the senses…It is so sexually charged and so unfiltered in the basic desire mixed with the heightened sense of visual aesthetics – it is all together rebellious, honest and almost explosive in its powerful delivery. I have touched the topic slightly in my chapter for one of Mylene’s songs – see below.
Ellen Von Unwerth photographed Mylène in 2001 for the album best of Les mots. There are a few mini series done during the session.
Another session too place in 2005 for the imaginative the so-called “Vampire” series.
Shots used for the covers of the media for the single Redonne-moi , the front page and the article published in “VSD” in January 2006 before the first concerts Avant que l’ombre… at Bercy .
Snapshots of this series not validated by Mylène had leaked on the internet at the end of 2005 and remaining since very favorite of the fans.
For those of you , dear friends, who are still not familiar with the name and the life journey of Ellen von Unwerth, here is a few facts:
Ellen von Unwerth was born born 17 January 1954 in Frankfurt, Germany. As an orphan, during her early childhood, she often ended up in Bavarian foster care systems. Eventually, von Unwerth was able to graduate high school in Munich, where she would work as a circus magician’s assistant for three years.
At the age of twenty while walking down the street, von Unwerth was asked by a photographer if she ever thought about having a modeling career. von Unwerth decided to give modeling a chance and moved to Paris where she had a successful modeling career for ten years.
However, von Unwerth felt that as a model, she did not have the freedom to decide where and how her image would be used. Her boyfriend at the time gave her a camera, leading to an impromptu photo shoot in Africa by her of her model colleagues. When the photos were published, von Unwerth decided that this was the new path she would take in life, as the demand for her photography skills outgrew her demand as a model.
She became famous for her work when she was hired by Guess to shoot an up-and-coming model named Claudia Shchiffer. This photo-shoot created a huge demand for her services in the industry. Von Unwerth then began to do work for leading magazines like Vogue, Interview, Vanity Fair, The Face, I-D, and Twill.
In 1991, she won first prize at the International Festival of Fashion Photography. Over the years, she has photographed numerous celebrities and entertainers.
One of her most popular pieces is a photoshoot of actress Drew Barrymore that was done for Playboy in 1995.
Prior to that, she photographed a memorable shoot of Madonna for Vogue in 1993.
Von Unwerth also has a long list of album cover work credited to her professional portfolio; this list includes Duran Duran Liberty in 1990, Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope in 1997, Dido’s Life for Rent in 2003, Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics in 2006, Britney Spears’s Blackout in 2007, album covers Rated R and Talk ThatTalk for Rihanna.
Von Unwerth has also done some directing work on commercials and Internet-based films for companies such as Equinox, Clinique, and Revlon. In addition, she has directed music videos and short films for a variety of fashion designers. Some of her published books include Snaps (1994), Wicked (1999), Revenge (2003), and Fräulein (2009). Her photographs are represented by many galleries, such as the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York, NY, and Galerie Trabant in Kitzbühel, Austria.
In an interview granted to “Paris Match” on December 6, 2001 , Mylène evokes the photos of Ellen Von Unwerth:
Dated December 06, 2001
Media / Press Paris Match
Interview by Dany Jucaud
Paris Match: You are so uncomfortable as soon as someone looks at you, your latest photos are borderline “porno chic”. Is it necessary to sell?
Mylène Farmer: We still need to define what we call chic porn. There is in these photos, as far as I know, neither pornography nor apparent nudity. To my knowledge – to use your term – pornography has never been chic.
Paris Match: They are still provocative…
Mylène Farmer: I don’t do this job to provoke. But, sometimes, certain provocations are synonymous with freedom. In a TV spot we just did for the promotion of the “Best Of” including excerpts from my clips, there is a three-second shot in which a man delicately lifts a sheet with a cane and discovers a pair of buttocks . Ad censors made us cut it without giving an explanation. What hypocrisy, when we are showered with violence all day long. All that is lukewarm bores me, political correctness, uniformity of thought and expression… I am not naive, I know very well that by publishing this kind of photos I will cause a certain type of reaction. As I am the first to rebel against censorship, I can’t be my own censor! I go after my desires.
Paris Match: It’s rare to see you smile in photos…
Mylène Farmer: These photos only represent one of the facets of my personality, the most daring without a doubt. A woman who asserts her femininity with perhaps more verve than another. It’s the situation that makes me smile because this woman, in this photo, is also the complete opposite of me.
Paris Match: Do you ever think about the cranks who fantasize about you?
Mylène Farmer: I prefer not to think about it, otherwise I wouldn’t do anything.
Paris Match: Do you like being watched?
Mylène Farmer: I choose my moments. I like to seduce with words, with gestures. If I didn’t like to seduce, how could I do this job?
Paris Match: You always say that you don’t like censoring yourself. However, you are a control freak…
Mylène Farmer: I sense a certain aggressiveness in your question. The two are not contradictory. Yes, I am someone who controls, but why would control be condemnable? To control is to be as demanding, with oneself as with others, to control is not to ignore or disrespect the talent of others. I have been doing this job for eighteen years. I very quickly understood that it was necessary to be wary because there is always misappropriation: misappropriation of my intentions, misappropriation of my remarks in the interviews. This is also the reason why I almost never give any. I try to limit excesses, deviations, lies. Rather than spending my time justifying myself, which is not in my nature, I prefer silence.
Paris Match: Isn’t it sometimes better to be wrong than to always be on your guard?
Mylène Farmer: I am wary of a certain human nature. More than anything, I dread betrayal. But distrust does not exclude self-sacrifice. Perhaps I have been betrayed a great deal. I do not know. Or more. I have no memory of my childhood and my adolescence is fading away.
Paris Match: I imagine you very well as a little girl gouging out the eyes of your dolls!
Mylène Farmer: [She bursts out laughing.] Is that really how you see me? A month ago, I was sewing the eyes of an old stuffed rabbit! And then, it seems that I preferred trucks to little girls’ games and that I made, as in “Tom and Jerry”, little bombs with corks and a wick that I put in front of the steps before leaving running !
Paris Match: This story of amnesia, is it true or did you make it up so as not to talk about your past?
Mylène Farmer: I don’t understand how you can think such a thing!
Paris Match: Why do you never allow yourself to let yourself go?
Mylène Farmer: It is not necessary to have reasons to be afraid.
Paris Match: You are only made up of contradictions. You are the biggest schizophrenic I know. When I saw you for the first time on stage come down from the sky half-naked, offered to the public, you so modest, so shy, lost in your depths, I confess that I find it difficult to put the pieces of your personality back together. …
Mylène Farmer: On stage, I manage to forget the gaze of others, perhaps because I know that if people take the trouble to come and see me, it’s because they love me. Life has given me a huge gift: I have incredible strength within me, even if sometimes I falter, it allows me to always bounce back.
Paris Match: For a year now, your fans have been accusing you of, I quote, “taking them for cash cows” and giving nothing in return.
Mylène Farmer: Don’t generalize from an isolated case. I want people to know that I have never been on the initiative of a fan club, neither unofficial nor official. I do not adhere to the cult of my personality. If someone or a few have decided of their own free will to create a fan club, it is entirely their responsibility. I did not oppose the publication of their newspapers because they were of quality. But, for all that, their destiny is not my responsibility and they know it very well. On the other hand, I am always surprised to see certain media repeating the same false information indefinitely.
Paris Match: But you don’t give them anything!
Mylène Farmer: I don’t think that we necessarily “give” something by recounting our life in the newspapers. I am a very secretive person. My respect for the public is unambiguous. My moral, intellectual and sentimental involvement is the same, from writing a song to making a clip, a T-shirt or a show. When I give a concert, there is a colossal investment on stage both emotionally and financially. I offer exactly the same show in Paris, in the provinces or in Russia.
Paris Match: In a survey, you are, after Laetitia Casta, the person who earns the most money in this profession: 35 million francs per year. It’s true ?
Mylène Farmer: It is as false as when people say that I am pregnant, that my real first name is Marie-Hélène or that the magazine “Marie-Claire” affirms that I am the mother of a child. Money gives me tremendous freedom, but it’s not an end in itself.
Paris Match: Do you win more or less?
Mylène Farmer: What Laetitia Casta?
Paris Match: You always refuse to talk about your private life, so we’re making it up!
Mylène Farmer: In private life, there is private. The word is eloquent enough. I do not condone this form of intrusion. I am emotionally fulfilled in my life and in my career, I have nothing to add.
Paris Match: You give yourself, you hide.
Mylène Farmer: I didn’t decide to do this job to be known but to be recognized. I don’t have to justify myself. I am always reproached for my so-called silence, but silence is my deep nature. What’s funny is that what some like about me is also what others end up blaming me for. So what to do?
Paris Match: Recently, at a very Parisian dinner, some guests were surprised, among other things, by your friendship with Salman Rushdie…
Mylène Farmer: I like writing. Those who love me know it. They must not be at your dinner parties. Culture has always had a very important place in my life. I like Bataille, Cioran, Edgar Poe, Chekhov, Baudelaire. Poetry transports me. As I speak little, I read often.
Paris Match: The September 11 attacks in the United States and the events that followed were a wake-up call for many people. And for you ?
Mylène Farmer: I didn’t need a huge catastrophe to wake me up and make me understand the urgency of life. I don’t go a day without thinking about death. For most people, cemeteries are fraught with sadness. Not for me. I visit them as one visits museums. I feel good there when they are beautiful. Just as a charred tree can be as moving as a flowering tree.
Paris Match: Can I talk about your silent activities with sick children?
Mylène Farmer: [Uncomfortable.] What for? These moments are moments of great richness, very strong and too rare too. Blessed moments, silent moments that belong to them.
Paris Match: You have just turned 40. You still project a youthful image. There’s a time when it will become indecent…
Mylène Farmer: There’s a big part of childhood in me, maybe I shouldn’t leave it. I know that there is an age when you can no longer do the Marsupilami on stage. It’s true that I’m afraid of growing old. What is reassuring is that when men speak well of women, they say that beyond their forties they are in full possession of their femininity. It’s a cruel question but I sometimes think about it. I will know when the moment will come when I have to change. Not the content of my expression but the form. I will know how not to do the “fight too much”. Leave before you get tired