Juergen Teller: Go-Sees, Bubenreuth Kids and a Fairytale about a King at Alison Jacques Gallery
German-born fashion photographer Juergen Teller’s exhibition, ‘Go-sees, Bubenreuth kids and a Fairytale about a King’ at the Alison Jacques Gallery in London is most certainly a go-see itself.
The Alison Jacques Gallery is a huge open space, with vacant white walls, void of anything to distract viewers’ attention away from the works on show. The main gallery hall opens off into a smaller room, displaying photography and stills from Teller’s time working with children from Bubenreuth primary school, and then extends upstairs to tell the fairytale story of how Edward Enninful became a king.
The exhibition starts in the gallery’s huge open space with the walls adorned in beautiful photographs of models from the 1990’s. The photographs exude a beautifully gripping sense of nostalgia, displaying the fashion mood and figures from the 90’s era, with sleek simple clothing, giant hair scrunchies, and the influential braless look – in fact the overall style of all the models is very au naturel, with the models wearing minimal, if any, makeup. The looks are sure to resonate with many visitors and send them longing for the time when life seemed simpler.
In one corner of the room, there stands an old television set playing a series of videos showing interviews of models in the 90’s talking about their life as a model, living with the other models in their shared apartment, and what it is like to work with Teller.
The video shows one girl in particular who explains that although she adores modeling she finds it difficult to be herself in front of the camera as she can not see a person, or look into someone’s eyes, she only sees a camera lens staring back at her. She then explains that during her the interview currently taking place she feels more natural, more like herself, as she can see the interviewer and connect with them.
The gallery then branches off into a smaller room where a selection of photographs and interview stills are displayed from Teller’s work with the children from Bubenreuth primary school. Teller and the children went on photography trips and did workshops together, with Teller showing these children a little piece of the exciting world he lives in should they wish to follow in his footsteps. On the walls are photographs of subtitled interview stills of the children talking about their experience on working with Teller. Many of the children explain how much they enjoyed the experience. The children also tell the interviewer how Teller explained the reasoning behind his work, such as why he photographs nude models, and how he achieves the outcome of his works and a young girl points out that Teller relies on the wind to make the models hair blow around. The children explain how they originally thought some of his work was ‘ugly’ but soon realised it was because they were ‘just not used to it’. The children also explain how Teller photographs puzzling things, whereas other people just want to see and photograph beautiful things. Viewers will note that the children’s experience with Teller guided them towards their own new realisations about the world and how to see things differently, and appreciate the beauty in something normally deemed as ‘ugly’ or ‘weird’.
The exhibition continues upstairs in a small room. In this room, Teller tells viewers a fairytale story about how a young man became a magnificent king. The story is about Edward Enniful, whose vision has long been heralded in the fashion world and has become more widely known in faraway lands with his recent takeover of the kingdom that is British Vogue.
Born in Ghana to a seamstress mother, Edward later emigrated to London as a young boy. At the age of sixteen, he was spotted on a train by stylist Simon Foxton, and two weeks later he was stopped again by a model scout. Soon after, Edward was shooting with Foxton at his house alongside Nick Knight, founder-photographer of i-D.
Edward’s brief career in modeling paved the way for him into becoming a fashion stylist and later taking on contributing editor roles at Italian and American Vogues. In 2011, he was appointed as fashion and style director at W Magazine through which he excelled and was a natural first-in-line candidate to take over the Editor-in-Chief role at British Vogue when Alexandra Shulman stepped down after 25 years this year.
Juergen Teller writes of how he first met Edward through stylist Simon Foxton, with whom he had been working with for Arena Homme Plus. Edward was just sixteen when Teller met him and he could not believe, nor could anyone else, how quickly Edward rose to become Fashion Director of i-D magazine at just 18-years-old.
Teller recalls many humorous memories with Edward, and tells the story of how he quickly became good, strong friends with Edward, recalling a time when his daughter, Lola, who was three-years-old at the time, opened their door to Edward and asked they had ordered a minicab. Teller explains his young daughter did not mean to make any sort of racist comment, it was a completely innocent mistake as he and his family often used All Saints Road minicabs. Teller says even now Lola, who is now twenty-years-old, himself and Edward still laugh about the event.
Teller tells the viewers, in his written message on the walls, that one day after shooting a Marc Jacobs Campaign in New York, he looked at Edward, who was sitting in his business class seat and thought, ‘Jesus, Edward, you really start to look like an African dictator, owning that seat’ he then took out his camera saying, ‘I need to photograph you, I love the way you look.’
That was the first page of Juergen Teller’s fairytale about how Edward Enniful became a king. Teller did not see Edward for a few years after and upon their next meeting, he noted that Edward had put on a fair bit of weight since he last saw him, but assured him it suited him, exclaiming, “Oh my God! You just look brilliant big. Even more dictator-ish than before. I love it!”
Teller photographed many moments of Edward’s life. They met regularly either for business or for casual catch-ups in coffee shops or cafés for breakfast. He liked to focus on Edward’s lips and hands and his images and stories offer viewers rare glimpses into the human character behind this revered member of Fashion Royalty.
Through Teller’s photographs of Edward during their friendship and many meetings, Teller documented his evolution from a skinny young boy to a strong, successful business leader. His story sets a beautiful inspiring example, which shines even brighter when unfolded after the photographs and recollections of the Bubenreuth kids in this exhibition. It is not just a fairy tale in fact but rather a real-life story that shows that fairy tale destinies are possible if you follow your passion, work hard and respect the teachers and opportunities you are sent along the way. Edward, who came from a land far away not so long ago, now sits upon a throne in the centre of the global fashion sphere and his shining influence now rightly reaches far and wide. A kind and wise natural leader, an extraordinary creative visionary, passionate, hardworking and an excellent role model, he is a true king indeed.
“Go-sees, Bubenreuth kids and a Fairytale about a King” is on at Alison Jacques Gallery until 13th January 2018. More information may be found here.