Peter Lindbergh On The Making Of The Forces For Change Cover

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Edward Enninful, Peter Lindbergh and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on the London set for the Forces for Change issue.

When it came to photographing the extraordinary cast of women who appear on the cover of this collector’s edition of British Vogue, there was only one man for the job: Peter Lindbergh. “It was one of those brilliantly spontaneous moments when HRH The Duchess of Sussex and I had exactly the same idea at exactly the same time,” says Edward Enninful, of the choice. “Peter sees beauty in real people, in real situations. He makes everybody feel their best.”

The German photography titan boasts a long history with British Vogue, but it was his now-famous January 1990 cover, featuring a gang of supermodels, that was the reference for the Forces for Change issue. “Natural” was a word that came up repeatedly in cover discussions. “I hate retouching, I hate make-up. I always say, ‘Take the make-up off!’” Lindbergh, 74, confirms. “The number of beautiful women who have asked me to lengthen their legs or move their eyes further apart…” he breaks into a laugh. “You would not believe. It’s a culture of madness.”

The images for the ambitious cover shoot were captured in June, over three continents and several days. Pulling the portfolio together required gargantuan effort: co-ordinating the diaries of 15 of the world’s most successful and phenomenally busy women left little margin for missteps. Two separate shoots took place in studios in New York and London. “My instructions from the Duchess were clear: ‘I want to see freckles!’” says Lindbergh, who spoke to her over the phone on the morning of the New York shoot. “Well, that was like running through open doors for me. I love freckles.”

Vogue’s creative director Johan Svensson and the photographer Peter Lindbergh in Stockholm, photographing climate activist Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish Parliament.

Between New York and London, there was a special moment in Stockholm, outside Sweden’s Parliament House, where climate activist Greta Thunberg stages her weekly school strikes. With Thunberg unwilling to compromise on her “no-fly” policy (she is responsible for the proliferation of the word “flygskam”, or “flight shame”, in Scandinavian countries), Lindbergh travelled to Sweden. She gamely posed for him holding her handmade sign. “I was expecting someone a little, how can I say… automatic with her answers,” says Lindbergh. “But she was so far from this. She was so thoughtful, so warm, and I was determined to get a picture of her smiling. Within two minutes she was laughing.”