Since the beginning of her adult career, Ellen Von Unwerth has been either in front of or behind some type of camera. Today, Von Unwerth is one of the most noted fashion photographers in the industry, pushing the limits of female sexuality in fashion and photography in general, and creating stunning editorial spreads for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and i-D. In addition to photography, Von Unwerth dabbles in film, having directed music videos and commercials for major artists and brands.
Ellen Von Unwerth was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1954 and had a less than perfect childhood, at times being in foster care in Bavaria. Soon after Von Unwerth graduated high school, the circus caught her attention in Munich, and she was hired as an assistant, doing magic shows and stunts as well. Much of her photography to date contains notes and allusions to her circus days, featuring styles from interesting counterculture.
At the age of 20, a photographer approached Ellen on the street and asked her if she would ever consider modeling as a career. Soon thereafter, Von Unwerth moved to Paris to pursue this career, and proceeded to thrive, being shot by some of the best photographers of the time. Von Unwerth enjoyed her work as a model, but always felt the poses and creativity of the model was restrictive and unnatural, always being told to stand still.
Ten years after her debut in the fashion industry, Von Unwerth moved to the other side of the camera lens and began shooting. At the time, she was living with a photographer, who gave her invaluable photographic insight in order to get started. Just a few years after she became a photographer, a shoot she did of Claudia Schiffer for GUESS put her on the map, and by 1998, she was listed as one of the Most Important People in Photography by American Photo Magazine.
Since her big break in fashion photography, Von Unwerth has constantly been on the map as one of the best photographers of women, with an innate ability to capture a woman’s sensuality in any type of setting. Thanks to her days as a fashion model herself, Von Unwerth has a specific insight into the mind of the model that most photographers miss. Von Unwerth hated the static nature of modeling, having to stand still in different poses for hours, and in turn promotes kinetic motion and playful progression of poses and gestures by the model.
With her ability to relate to the model’s state of mind, and her confidence in female playfulness and sexuality, Ellen Von Unwerth continues to make beautiful fashion spreads, commercials, music videos, and published photography books full of sexy, natural, unrestricted women. Von Unwerth has worked with some of the most influential actors, musicians, models, photographers, and personalities of the century, and is published in countless magazines. Not only does Von Unwerth shoot for clients, she shoots for herself, and is constantly with camera in hand.
This incredible woman has taken her hardships and struggles early in life as a child, and turned the experiences into energy and motivation she now uses towards creating beautiful photography and employing her unique vision. She lists Helmut Newton and Jacques Henri Lartigue as her favorite photographic inspirations, and holds strong to her ability to capture a woman’s sole essence with her lens.