MILAN–Over aperitivo in Milan, Brigitte Niedermair, the provocative photographer known for juxtaposing decapitated heads of farm animals with models’ bodies, tells me that her curiosity with her greatest muse, food, was inspired by the tiny Tyrolean Alpine hamlet she still calls home.
“Everything was born in Merano for me. So much of what I do is related to my private life,” she said.
In a way, her roots are the embodiment of unusual paradoxes.
Merano was ceded to Italy from Austria after WWI. And despite being engulfed by the Italian Republic nearly 100 years ago, its inhabitants live in an unchanged parallel universe, where they still speak German, watch German TV, celebrate in traditional garb like lederhosen and think of Vienna as the “big city” rather than Milan or Rome.
While she jets off to Paris and Milan frequently, Niedermair stays close to her values and decided to raise her daughter within close proximity to her mother’s bio veggie garden — the inspiration of so many of her photo shoots that depict man’s conflicted relationship with food.
“For me my mother’s garden wasn’t art, it was photography,” she said over prosecco.
Her wholesome upbringing has often stood in stark paradox to some of her unsettling subjects, like the video she once produced of a model making love to the head of a pig.
“I wanted to show that eating an animal is almost like killing a human being. Needless to say, it was not taken well in some circles,” she said shrugging her shoulders and grinning. “In the end, if we didn’t consume meat we would be better off.”
For the May editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Niedermair toned it down a notch, catering this time to the consumer magazine world’s standard of beauty, shooting models Gigi Hadid, Anna Cleveland and Kitty Hayes for a spread entitled “Beauty Queens” styled by Carine Roitfeld.
In a way, man’s attitude toward food is similar to man’s relationship with fashion.
“Humans are more and more conscious of what they are eating. I think that man is starting to approach fashion in the same way. There are always more and more ecosustainable textiles out there and natural dyes etc… We really have no choice. In the next ten years, things will really change.”
Niedermair’s latest project involves a wallpapering of two carrots intertwined like a prosperous set of legs. The tangerine colored tubers were woven meticulously by legendary Venetian fabric-maker Rubelli, known for the soprarizzo velvet that it made for the Savoy family’s train carriages. During Design Week here and in light of the upcoming Expo, she unveiled her project for the sixth edition of Wallpaper’s Handmade project entitled “Eat me! Drink me! Tell me that you love me!”
Once again, like man’s fixation with animal carnage, she proved that fashion, art and photography can’t survive without the other. But for now, she has no plans to become a full-time fashion photographer like Mario Testino.
“Fashion can be art. But whatever it is I do, I always try to do something timeless. I always try and create a link with art.”
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