Thierry Mugler and photography. An exclusive interview

During the thirty years in which he was at the helm of his namesake brand, Thierry Mugler has traveled the world immortalizing his creations alongside the many wonders of the places he visited. “I’ve been a photographer my whole life,” he tells us. “Photography is an important part of who I am and my pursuit of beauty.” A new book entitled Manfred Thierry Mugler, Photographer (Abrams & Chronicle Books, out April 14) collects 150 of those images in a single anthology, alongside some behind-the-scenes shots and a carnet de voyages, which offers the observer a magnificent visual odyssey.

Dauphine de Jerphanion wears Veuve de l’Air by Mugler, Palazzo Garnier Paris 1986

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

Mugler’s photography is as ambitious as his fashion shows. In this regard, imagine the theatricality of the autumn-winter 1995 show-collection which lasted an entire hour and saw the catwalk 300 looks worn by Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Jerry Hall, all condensed into a single frame. From page to page, Mugler is able to transport us from Paris to New York, where models pose precariously on historical monuments such as the Opéra Garnier and the spiers of the Chrysler Building. It takes us to visit some of the most extraordinary architectural prowess in the history of humanity, such as the Cathedral of Saint Basil in Moscow and the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali, and invites us to explore the salt plains of the Atacama Desert in Chile, the lush forest that surrounds Guilin in China and the volcanic beaches of Hawaii.

Evelyne Gaud-Peretti wears Beaux Fruits de l’Été Mugler, Guilin Valley, China, 1985

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

Mugler may have sold the company in 2001 but has never stopped creating; for example, in the role of consultant designer for the 2009 Beyoncé world tour I Am … or with the collaboration with the dance company of the choreographer Wayne McGregor in 2019. Apparently, that pursuit of beauty seems to be – fortunately for us – the mission of a lifetime.

When did you first approach photography?

“At the age of 8, I shot my first short film, with my father as a cameraman, but my first fashion photo dates back to my 14 years. At the time, I was a professional dancer [presso la Rhin Opera, in Alsazia, Francia] and I organized a fashion show. I took care of the entire production, styling, finding the location, photography, everything. I find it very difficult to separate these elements. I consider myself first of all a director as I think of concept in its entirety. This is the reason why I made the storyboards to give life to my fashion shows. Photography became an increasingly professional tool for me when I started shooting the campaigns for my collections first, and then for perfume ”.

Dauphine de Jerphanion wears Flintstone, little black Mugler suit, at Cabazon Dinosaurs in California, 1991,

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

How do you think your background as a dancer may have influenced your activity as a stylist, but also as a photographer and director?

“It taught me the importance of technique. There is no beauty, no inventiveness: whether it be fashion, dance, photography or direction, the art of innovation must go through a certain process. For me personally, as a mad and unruly boy, it was very difficult to learn it. Dance taught me the difference between positive and negative pain. “

What makes a photograph extraordinary?

“I dream in images and I want to make that image using the best ingredients. And of course, the best ingredients are found in nature – they are certainly not a green screen or Photoshop. It is therefore necessary to go in search of quality, to find the best and the most beautiful vision, whether it takes you among the ice of Greenland or among the canyons of Utah, among the mosques made of mud from Mali or among the sand dunes of the Sahara. It’s all in the charm of adventure. “

Anna Bayle and Tom Lust dress Sequins Polaires by Mugler, Disko Bay Greenland, 1987,

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

Her images of models on Greenland icebergs seem almost impossible. How did he do it?

“Many images of Greenland icebergs are taken from the ground but, when you look at them closely, they are dirty in color and the corners are rounded, undefined. I the model Anna Bayle and the stylist traveled by boat, moving away from the coast by about 20 nautical miles. Anna, a very courageous woman, had to go down to the iceberg positioning herself on small pieces of isothermal survival blanket folded and hidden from view, and I had about 2 seconds to shoot. Sometimes we would wait whole days to get the right light. “

Katoucha Niane wears Croco Style by Mugler. Niger River, Mali 1987

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

The glacial landscapes contrast with the heat of the African sun, as in the images depicting Iman in the Algerian Sahara, Katoucha Niane on the banks of the Niger river and Carol Miles in the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali. What led you to want to shoot in these places?

“Mali is an incredible country and the Djenné Mosque represents one of the most unique examples of African architecture in the world. It is made of a material called adobe (or raw earth), a mixture of mud, clay and straw. I spent hours drinking tea with the men of the city to get permission to take photos.

It was a balance of harmonies: the structure and personality of Carol’s face, the architectural characteristics of the building, the sky. Taking a photograph is like making a covenant with God: you wait and wait in the confidence that you will be given the right light and the right gesture at the right time. And when everything happens it’s really worth it. “

Carol Miles dresses Africa Pop by Mugler, Mali 1987

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

His exhibition Thierry Mugler: Couturissime of 2019 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was visited by about 300,000 people. Not only that: celebs like Kim Kardashian West and Cardi B wear his archival items. What is, in your opinion, the reason why your art and your creations are able to excite people?

“It’s because my creations pay homage to the woman and her personality: I give them an armor. This is why my fashion shows were so complicated, because I worked with each of the models individually, taking care of the unique and particular styling of each of them, creating different make up looks and hairstyles, giving each one its part and then directing them on stage. My work is timeless as it is based on the beauty of the human body and the fascinating world in which we live. “

Stepanek and Angela Wilde dress Blés d’Or by Mugler Volgograd, Russia, 1986

© Manfred Thierry Mugler

Why is beauty so important to you?

“Beauty plays an important role in our world. It is generosity, honesty, kindness; it is the feeling that unites people, it is part of our daily lives, and it is the best way to communicate a message. Beauty is not very fashionable these days. Just look at the cinema: money and money are spent on violence. So yes, I’m an activist who promotes beauty in the world. “

How come you think people have detached themselves from beauty?

“People are lost. In the West, we live in a very difficult civilization and we forget that there are people who live very differently from us. We are trapped in our small materialistic world and people don’t dare to look beyond, they don’t have the courage. You have to have guts to be happy. You have to be brave. “

Manfred Thierry Mugler, Photographer is published Abrams & Chronicle Books and will be released on April 14th.

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