German fashion and art photographer Juergen Teller, armed with his Contax G2 camera as always, shared six of his top photos with The Telegraph. From bathing in a geothermal lagoon with Björk to nerve-wracking moments with convict OJ Simpson, Teller tells us the interesting anecdotes behind each irregular image.
Juergen Teller has this uncanny ability to get really intimate with his subjects. Jet-setting fashionistas, jaw-dropping celebrities, and even jail-inhabiting figures just seem to open up to him like a book. Good news for photographic voyeurs like us then. Here he talks about some of his most memorable shoots.
I had the pleasure of visiting Björk and her son in September 1993 in Iceland. As soon as I saw him, I was fascinated by how similar they looked. Björk was an excellent host, cooked at her home and showed me around. Of course we went to the Blue Lagoon where we made this picture. We were all in the water, and a second after I took this photo, the boy splashed my camera full of water. There’s tons of salt in those hot springs, so I wasn’t too happy about it. But I knew I had a good picture, and forgave him pretty quickly.
At six o’clock in the morning the hotel phone rang. Back in 2000, I didn’t have a mobile phone. You couldn’t imagine that today. “Servus, Juergen, Arnold here,” he said in broad Austrian. “Thought I’d give you a call and tell you my idea.” Completely groggy, I thought his ideas were good too. So, I had to get up at four o’clock the next morning to go up some mountain in Malibu. There I waited for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The sun rose, and he rode elegantly past me like a cowboy on his horse. It was sultry, dusty – I was totally wiped out. Picture taken. Then I had to climb back down on my own. Later in his office I said, “ I’ve got an idea too now, Arnold, climb into the crocodile’s mouth.” “Juergen, for you I’d do anything.”
I had to think twice whether I wanted to photograph O J Simpson. But back then [in 2000], I was just too curious. A very intimidating man was standing in front of my hotel room. A giant, his first question was, “You’re a famous fashion photographer: how are the models?” A little nervous, I replied, “They’re good.” Then he said he had a woman upstairs in his room for an hour and a half, you know what I mean. Then he’d be hungry, and after that we’d be able to take pictures. Later the woman joined us on the terrace – pretty, young, blonde, very German, I thought. I started photographing him, two cameras, one in each hand, and suddenly out of nowhere he asked me, “Juergen, who do you think did it?” I couldn’t believe my ears, shaking, kept on taking photos, until the sound of my cameras, rewinding the film, stopped me from hiding behind them. I said, “OJ, I’ve got no idea, I wasn’t there.” He screamed with laughter, put his hands on his head, raised them towards the sky and said, “Only God knows.” At that point I wanted to leave as soon as possible, felt scared and really awkward. But I still had to pick up his kids from school with him and buy school uniforms. OJ was determined to go out with me in the evening – he thought I had lots of cash. Luckily I was able to escape, sweating, until I reached the airport.