Like most of the guys that I competed with for darkroom time growing up, I was heavily influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni’s counter-culture film Blow-Up. A client gave me an original print of the image that was used on the movie poster which has hung prominently in my office for years. It portrays a fashion photographer (played by David Hemmings) straddling a gorgeous model. It unofficially served as an effective recruitment poster for a generation of photographers. Naturally I was intrigued when I was asked to photograph the poster’s famous model almost half a century after the film's release.
Born into royalty, her mother was a Prussian Countess and her father a German aristocrat. As a young girl she lived on an estate that had been in her family for centuries but when her father was executed for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Veruschka, her mother and her three sisters were sent to labor camps until the end of World War II.
At 20, while living in Italy she began modeling. She eventually changed her name from “Vera” to “Veruschka” and went on to redefine our image of the modern fashion model while working with the most renowned photographers and artists of the day including Penn, Newton, Stern, Bailey, Beard and Dali to name just a few. She is widely considered to be the first “super-model” commanding $10,000 per day in the early 1970’s.
As I have mentioned in other posts, there is some truth in the old adage that one should never meet their heroes but she did not support that claim. She was involved and creative without any demands and proved to be the ideal collaborator.
She arrived at my studio and appeared much younger than her years. As a life-long vegetarian she suggested that we shoot a nude to show the benefits of a healthy diet at any age. As she effortlessly folded her 6’3” frame into countless, seemingly impossible contortions I couldn't help but be reminded of the yoga poses she did for Richard Avedon (circa 1972) who proclaimed her to be "the most beautiful woman in the world".
Veruschka is an artist and continues to model and walk the occasional runway dividing her time between Berlin and NYC.