How Steven Klein thrived during the pandemic
The photographer who made his name with shocking, big-budget shoots, proved he could still turn heads with iPhone still lifes
During the Covid pandemic, Steven Klein couldn’t work in his usual manner. Over the previous three decades, this highly acclaimed American photographer had developed a transgressive style of fashion and portraiture photography. Collaborating with famous figures, such as Rihanna, Madonna, Björk and Kanye West, as well as prominent models, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Lara Stone, while working for such titles as American Vogue, Interview and W, as well as such brands including Nike, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana, Klein created his own, shockingly libidinous manner of image making.
Commenting on the photographer's 1999 portraits of Brad Pitt for W Magazine – taken to publicize starring Pitt’s role in Fight Club – the photography critic Vince Aletti wrote that Klein “introduced a new sort of celebrity portraiture: fierce, fearless, just this side of disturbing."
Steven Klein. Super Linda; Image No. 11, Linda Evangelista, New York, 2012. All rights reserved.
Now, as lockdowns took hold in New York, putting the production teams, models or stars beyond his reach, Klein shrank his practice down, using his iPhone. Yet his focus remained undimmed. Phone in hand he chose to shoot small assemblages of unnerving objects, including a lipstick, a condom, a ridden saddle, a partially burned cigarette, and a photo of a bloodied knife, lying in some grass.
These recent images, which bookmark Klein’s new monograph, are both beautifully precise and wonderfully defiant; even while sheltering in place, the photographer could conjure up a wild, dangerous tension.
Steven Klein, Self Portrait. courtesy Steven Klein studio
“Klein’s arranged objects evoke deadly acts with the coolness of forensic evidence,” writes editor Mark Holborn in our new monograph. “A bloodstained blade in the grass, included in the book’s final collage, confirms that he is revealing a morbid scene. To open this book is to enter criminal territory. Here, the police are busy. Transgression, too, has its allure.”
To begin your own investigation into these impressive images as well as many others, order a copy of Steven Klein here.