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Peter Lindbergh’s Manhattan memories

As New York Fashion week gets underway, the legendary photographer shares his memories of the ’90s ‘Supers’ and his insider track to the city

Peter Lindbergh and the Supers (from left): Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista

“For the January 1990 cover of British Vogue, the editor at the time, Liz Tilberis, wanted me to capture the new mood, and woman, of the ’90s. When I thought about the concept, I thought there can’t just be one face to represent a whole decade, there has to be a group of women, and so we shot Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford all together on the corner of Watt Street in downtown New York. There was a fantastic energy on that shoot, and over the past few years I’ve done more portraits of them together. It’s very touching to see that they’re still as close, and just as beautiful.

I have always tried to show the real, gritty side of New York as the backdrop to my work; from Donna Karan’s first DKNY campaign in 1989 to the many shoots I have done for Harper’s Bazaar and US and Italian Vogue. I’m constantly inspired by the rough, wild version of New York as immortalized in black and white mafia films like Once Upon a Time in America, or On The Waterfront with Marlon Brando, or Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, which I think perfectly captures the dark side of the city. I like places with an edge, like the Meatpacking District and Dumbo in Brooklyn, the then-barren back streets beneath the Manhattan Bridge. When I first went there, nobody lived there. There wasn’t a single shop. I really felt like I was the first person in the world to shoot there. I used to hang out at The Florent, which was a French diner that I loved for its eclectic clientele – everyone from photographers to drag queens to butchers. It was like something straight out of Lou Reed’s song, Walk On The Wild Side. Now everything has changed, but there are still a few places in TriBeCa like the restaurant Odeon, and the East side of 14th street, which remain unchanged. For the last 20 years, I’ve always stayed in the Penthouse of the Soho Grand Hotel, which I love for its views and huge terrace, where you can host dinner parties for 25 friends or so, looking out to the Freedom Tower, TriBeCa and across the river towards New Jersey.

Nothing beats the experience of seeing New York for the first time, or flying over the city by helicopter. I’m always working when I’m there, but if I get some time off I head to the MoMA and just float around the sculpture garden. The best way to experience the city is to walk from Battery Park up to Harlem, but for the best view, I love the Top of The Rock Observation Deck above the Rockefeller Center. I used it as one of the locations in my City of Angels shoot with Amber Valletta, which was about an angel who fell to earth. I like to imagine that she landed from heaven on that roof, which has a secret garden and a little pool. From there, you can look out to the north, south, east and west of the city – it’s heartbreakingly beautiful.”

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