Photos — Peter Lindbergh Date — 15 January, 2011
click here to open a slideshow of lindbergh’s Portofino Photos
When I sit by the harbour at Portofino, time seems to stand still. The scene is still the same as 50 years ago, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton strolled across the Piazzetta: a huddle of gaily coloured houses and fishing boats rocking gently on a shimmering sea. For half a century now, the Italian fishing village has been the place to be for the rich and beautiful from all over the world. At sunset, the piazza by the harbour with its ritzy bars provides the perfect backdrop to a gentler pace of life – the Mediterranean dolce vita. One rainy morning, I grant myself the luxury of taking the time to stare out to sea.
Anchored in the harbour is a fleet of sleek-looking yachts. Their steering wheels remind me of the Portofino Chronograph, complete with elegant push-buttons that I’ve fallen in love with. Perhaps its designers really were thinking of the wheel of a yacht when they created this fabulous timepiece. While I’m still pondering this, my gaze falls on a menu board offering one of the area’s specialty ice-cream sundaes.
Later, I climb up to the terrace of our splendid hotel, which offers a breathtaking view of the sea, the cliffs and untamed nature. Clattering along on the coast road opposite is a scooter, and in my mind’s eye I have an image of a couple – rather like Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn – arranging to go for a spin.
By the evening, we’ve finished our schedule for the day and treat ourselves to one of the famed cocktails made by the Italian barman at the hotel bar. Behind him hang black-and-white photographs of famous guests from bygone times. This locale was frequented not only by stars like Rex Harrison and Ingrid Bergman but also others like Liza Minnelli and Alain Delon. Anyone with a Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days on his wrist now would finally have the time to wind it up. This model will go on running reliably for a full eight days before it automatically stops and needs rewinding.
Time moves on. Only in Portofino does it stand still. When dark clouds shroud the bay, the place takes on an air of mystery. It is the ideal moment for our shoot. But the first rays of sunlight bring the atmosphere of the dolce vita gently back to life, and there is no longer a free seat to be found on the piazza. That’s how it was when Elizabeth Taylor sashayed across the Piazzetta wearing shorts and carrying her beach bag. And that’s how it will always be.
Peter Lindbergh was born in Lissa, Germany, on 23 November 1944. He spent his childhood in Duisburg and became a window dresser. At the age of 18 he moved for a brief period to Lucerne in Switzerland. Later, he studied painting in Berlin and Krefeld and in 1971 became an assistant to photographer Hans Lux in Düsseldorf. In 1978, a series of fashion shoots for the German magazine Stern gave him his breakthrough. Since the 1980s, Lindbergh has been one of the best-known fashion photographers in the world. His black-and-white photographs never give the impression of being posed and appear in all the biggest international fashion magazines, from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to Rolling Stone. He creates a narrative with his pictures and enjoys working with rather bleak atmospheres and a minimalist aesthetic. Lindbergh is a honorary member of the exclusive German Art Directors Club and today lives in Paris, New York and Arles.