Images Courtesy “Gloss: The Work of Chris Von Wangenheim”
“Beautiful, disturbing and jaw-dropping” are just a few words used by authors Roger and Mauricio Padilha to describe the iconic works of the late photographer Chris Von Wangenheim. The brothers’ latest venture, Gloss: The Work of Chris Von Wangenheim, is their third book delving into the creative mind and admittedly their darkest. “Chris Von Wangenheim’s work was ominous and forboding,” Mauricio said. “ It was glamorous, but also gritty. Both of us prefer glamour when it’s a bit skewed or there’s a touch of danger attached to it. Perfect glamour, in that fantasy Cinderella way, never interested us.”
Von Wangenheim rose to prominence in the late ’60s and ’70s, working with top models like Christie Brinkley and Gia Carangi, as well as shooting campaigns for names like Christian Dior and Calvin Klein. Perhaps his most recognizable image is that of Lisa Taylor with a Doberman violently ripping at her arm. “There’s a beauty and the beast aspect to it; there is a defiance in the model’s eyes and a glamour to what should be a horrific situation,” Roger said. “You can come up with a dozen different scenarios to what is happening in the image and none of them would be good.”
Gloss is composed of in-depth interviews with fashion’s crème de la crème, showing the breadth of Von Wangenheim’s influence on modern imagery. His photographs capture the excess and underbelly of the’70s with such precision that it’s a shame he wasn’t able to impart the same cultural beacons into the ’80s and ’90s. In 1981, Von Wangenheim passed away in a car accident, while vacationing on the island of Saint Martin.
“I believe he would have focused more on his celebrity portraits than fashion and playing with the transformation of a celebrities’ image, much the way Annie Leibowitz does now,” Mauricio said when asked how he saw Von Wangenheim’s career playing out had he survived. “He would always take a celebrity, like Susan Saradon holding a knife to her tattooed breast in a pompadour, or Raquel Welch in no makeup soaking wet—his pictures always twisted the public perception of a celebrity’s image.”
Chris Von Wangenheim’s life and work characterized the epoch of the’70s and Gloss will see it honored with more than 200 iconic and unreleased images from his estate.