​Peter Lindbergh: The Heist

Fashion’s romantic reimagines gangland’s most notorious theft

Peter Lindbergh has a history of subverting fashion’s rigid conventions. For his first Vogue US cover, in 1988 – also the first under the editorship of Anna Wintour – he captured an off-guard moment with model Michaela Bercu dressed in stonewashed Guess jeans and a bejewelled Christian Lacroix couture jacket. This bringing together of the highest echelons of the fashion industry with street wear helped set the course of high-low style for years to come.

Known for his cinematic lens, German-born Lindbergh is a storyteller in nature, and once claimed that “fashion photographers are the new painters.” His most recent foray into film sees a reinterpretation of the notorious 1978 Lufthansa heist, the $5 million theft at New York’s JFK Airport and the largest cash robbery in America’s history. Immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 classic Goodfellas, his version casts models Steffy Argelich, Kirsten Owen, Sasha Pivovarova and Guinevere van Seenus as the gangster who done it.

What made you imagine the thieves as a female-led gang?
Peter Lindbergh: Why not? I love to empower women! I had done some series in 1991 with Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington about the mafia, a tribute to Al Capone’s style for Vogue Italia, but also Bonnie and Clyde, all with women, and I love the idea of playing with masculinity and femininity. Models are sometimes considered like silent movie stars; it is great to put them into a character and that they can play with different emotions. I have known most of the people on the set for so long that it is always fun to collaborate again with girls like Guinevere and Kirsten, or Sasha, who did her first ever editorial with me when she started, and new members like Steffy – it is like a family reunion!

What makes a supermodel?
PL: A great personality. Beauty is subjective, one can be considered ugly to someone and vice-versa. I do not believe in one type of beauty and I do not believe in what is transmitted by the fashion industry sometimes with the excessive use of photoshop and about what is considered beauty. Beauty is in your attitude, whatever your age, your skin colour, your body size or shape, your religion, your gender is – I believe in pluralistic beauties. What is the point of casting someone if you are going to make them look completely different and they do not even themselves recognize their own image? I always loved the richness and uniqueness of different skin tones, traces of life, wrinkles, imperfections. This is what individuality is about and what beauty is about – what you have that others don’t and what makes you unique.

In the past you’ve said that fashion photographers are the new painters. Do you see filmmakers as the new fashion photographers? Is this the natural progression for fashion imagery?
PL: I started my career as a painter and ended up being a photographer and also did movies. I think when you work in imagery, all art forms – whether it is video, photo, painting – cross paths at some point; they inspire one another. For example, my cover of Vogue UK with all the supermodels in 1990 inspired George Michael to do his “Freedom” music video, which fast-tracked everything for supermodels. But then I can see an exhibition or read a book about a painter like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner or Otto Dix, or a movie by Fritz Lang, whose aesthetics I relate to and that I am influenced by. Everybody influences one another, no? It is important to experiment and to make things your own, discover what your identity is through your art form, reinterpret things with your own imprint.