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On Juergen Teller's Berlin exhibition, Enjoy Your Life!

Walking into Enjoy Your Life!, the latest Juergen Teller exhibit in Berlin, the first thing you see is a larger-than-life-size print of the German photographer’s mother in an unassuming wood-paneled home. She seems unprepared for the snapshot, with her eyes looking just beyond the camera, while holding a door sign with her son’s name on it.

The rawness in this personal image is the same kind seen in Teller’s commercial photography for brands including Céline, Helmut Lang and Marc Jacobs as well as in his candid portraits of Charlotte Rampling, Lupita Nyong’o and Kurt Cobain, among others. His signature is an honest and overexposed way of shooting, which is antithetical to the glossy, overly styled aesthetic of fashion magazines. Ironically, it’s made him one of the most sought-after figures in the world of fashion.

In the exhibit, photographs are installed from floor to ceiling on some walls and hung in a variety of ways. Pinned to the wall, there’s an unframed photo of a man covered in greenery holding a plate. Nearby, there are framed personal photographs and a massive fiberglass plate with an image of a vibrant baby’s face—Teller’s son. Some long rectangular vitrines are filled with photographs of German icons like Dirk Nowitzki and Helmut Schmidt, while others house plates printed with images of celebrities including Bjork and Elton John. The entire display is reminiscent of Wolfgang Tillman’s style of treating an exhibition space as a large installation.

“The selection for the exhibition displays the main themes in Teller’s noncommercial work, themes like family, where he grew up, friends, forest, Germany and animals,” says Susanne Kleine, the exhibit’s curator. “As subjective documentations, they bear witness to his engagement with his youth and origins.”

The unexpected appearance of plates in photographs is also an indication of Teller’s tongue-in-cheek approach to art. Many of these are from Plates/Teller, a series the photographer started in 2016 that plays on his last name, Teller, which is also the German word for plate. “The protagonists’ games with a plate are captured in compositions that are as tender as they are exuberant, direct and honest,” explains Kleine. “Many of his complex narratives only unfold upon a closer look, even if they are presented on a proverbial platter.”

Juergen Teller. Enjoy Your Life! Runs until July 3, 2017 at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.

  • Words:
    Charmaine Li
  • Photography:
    © Juergen Teller
  • Words:
    Charmaine Li
  • Photography:
    © Juergen Teller
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