Vanessa v. Zitzewitz_ 2015TęRobert Freiberg Fotografie

Vanessa von Zitzewitz, Vernissage 15 April 2015, München

© Robert Freiberg Fotografie / Courtesy of Simone Nickl Public Relations

⌘ Feature photo above:  Sleeping Angel, 1999, Digital Fine Art, © Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography


Article by Roxana Florina Popa

Vanessa von Zitzewitz shows in Germany her first solo exhibition at the leading, exclusive fine art Galerie Bernheimer in München.

16 April to 12 June 2015. A time to renew our understanding of a woman’s beauty thanks to the photographer’s unique lenses on “Appearances and Aesthetics”.

Confirming the woman as a form of art and underlining both adorned and naked parts of the feminine body, Vanessa von Zitzewitz expands the exploration of a woman to its natural appearance – the nude.

Cat Walk                        Christ'a

Cat Walk – Ibiza, 2014                                               Christ’A, Saint Barth 1996

     Digital Fine Art                                                                    Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

A nude is actually far away from being a naked body.

Taken out in the nature, a woman’s nude has a softening effect on usually threatening environments and reveals a cool and sensual presence next to powerful forms of nature, such as the high waves in Southampton and the wind and the hard rocks in Saint Barth. (New Wave 1 and 2, Southampton, NY, Snake – Saint Barth, 1996, Black – Saint Barth, 2002, Sculpture 1 and 2 Saint Barth, 1996).


Snake, 1996

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

Besides nude acts presented in black & white photography, Vanessa von Zitzewitz surprises through her genuine talent for mastering also water & body colours in Skins Splash – Ibiza, 2014.

Feminine forms seem to entirely come out of these sculptural photos whose flow lets the spectator recompose the shooting and have a film developing before his eyes.

Skins Splash, Ibiza 2014

Skins Splash, Detail, Ibiza 2014

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

Giving the impression of a real water pool, this photographic arrangement is the fluid part of the exhibition and creates a space in movement together with the series Dancing with Elephants – 2014.

Dancing with Elephants

Dancing with Elephants 1, 2014

Digital Fine Art               

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

A memorable surprise is carefully hidden in the visit: the woman in the citadin environment (The Shadow of Paris, In my hand – Paris, 2010, 38, Avenue Gabriel – Paris, 2014). Elegant architecture paying tribute to curves becomes a home to femininity. A new resonance: between a woman’s nature and steel.


In my Hand, 2010

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography


38, Avenue Gabriel Spiral Stairs, Paris 2014

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

The exhibition is symmetrically closed by Carla Bruni’s portait in a forget-me-not message before leaving the Gallery.

This is the distinctive style of Vanessa von Zitzewitz: well-thought great ideas manifested in photographic art with lightness and naturalness from multiple perspectives.

While waiting for the interview in the elegant premises of the Galerie Bernheimer, I admire the portraits of HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco, Alain Delon and Michael Schumacher. A shining presence makes her appearance. Vanessa von Zitzewitz is exactly as friendly and warm as in her website photos. It feels like we have already met before.

Roxana-Florina Popa:     “Dancing with Elephants” impressed me by its naturalness. What is the message of the naked woman and who is the main character of these photos?

Vanessa Von ZitzewitzMy favourite picture is Richard Avedon’s famous picture called “Dovima with the Elephants”. When I was a young photographer, this picture had a real impact on my work and the way I saw women be photographed. My dream was to redo this picture with a nude since I like photographing naked girls. I did a casting and I found a Russian model from St. Petersburg who loved animals, loved the idea and said “I will do it”. Posing totally naked so close to animals is not something easy.

The elephants belong to the circus Knie in Switzerland which is very protective of their animals. I flew in several times before the photo session in order to get close to the animals, know their owners and trainer and to explain my project. They were kind enough to accept and we had a 3-day shooting with these amazing animals, trained in a wonderful way.

So, the story is about both the girl and the animals. She seems like dancing with the elephants because she is in a relationship with the animals. I envisaged her so natural among these huge beasts. I like the contrast between the girl’s bare skin and the elephant’s rough skin.

RFP:       As somebody who works towards opening people’s hearts to animals, how would you describe a personality who can come close to horses?

VVZ: Horses are challenging animals. In nature their reaction would be to run away from somebody. We’ve tamed them, we’ve completely changed their way of behaving. I am myself a show jumper, I have a horse and I know they are not meant to have a saddle on their back and to jump 1,40m over an obstacle. They would go round the obstacle when they see it.

The way we approach animals is very artificial. What they do for us every day is so unnatural. This is why it is so important to take care of them. Many horses have back problems because of the saddle, jumping or dressage. My horses are kept in a special way, we take very good care of them and I know how to approach horses. I think this helped a lot during my project in Qatar with Arab horses which are even more difficult and frightened than European horses. They are powerful animals and – like the horse I photographed (Exhibition “Horses of Qatar”) – they have never been ridden. They are just shown for their beauty. Their relation to humans is even more distant. It was quite challenging to photograph them in a way that seems very natural that I got very close to them. The underwater pictures are very special because horses normally do not swim. They are trained in Qatar in pools as outside it is very hot, but they are frightened to be in this unknown environment.

You have to know and love animals to do such a project. Because you never know how a horse is going to react, never.

RFP: How do you connect your photography to the personalities and stars posing before your camera?

VVZ: It is always a new challenge because everybody is different. You have important personalities in front of your camera that have very little time and who have been photographed so often that they already know how they want to be photographed.

The great thing about my work is that I have never had the feeling “oh, I´ve done this before”. I am always enthusiastic about each new photo session. The moment I try to capture is unique. I have not captured the same moment with anybody before. This is what I want to express and this is the main challenge when working with a personality.


Gianni Agnelli, Between Torino and Firenze, 1992

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

Ringo Starr

 Ringo Star, Monaco 2003

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger, Cap d’Antibes 2005

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography


Carla, Paris 1999

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

RFP: How did you experience Cartier and Graff jewellery? How each of them inspired you in creating the shooting concept?

VVZ: My projects for Cartier were about producing books and an exhibition. I had total freedom of what I wanted to do. I did a book called “Untamed” for which I photographed famous models with jewellery that we chose, next to wild animals, in different parts of the world. That was my idea, my choice because I love animals. The jewellery was there, but it was not the essential part of the picture.


Stephanie Seymour for Cartier, NYC 1997

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

Whereas in the advertising campaigns I did for 12 years for Graff, the jewellery was the important subject in the picture. I had to get the jewellery piece as precise, as crispy and realistic as possible. For example, photographing yellow diamonds is very difficult because of the reflections. If you have a big yellow stone and you wear black, that stone becomes green on print. At one point, my whole team had to wear white clothes to avoid black reflections.

Graff was more technical while Cartier was more fun, more freedom and it was more about doing a project than an advertising campaign.


Nadja Auermann for Cartier, Berlin 1995

Digital Fine Art

© Vanessa von Zitzewitz / Courtesy of Bernheimer Fine Art Photography

RFP: What is it that a jewellery photographer should first focus on?

VVZ: I think it is very important to learn about coloured stones. When I worked for Graff I used to take care of the printing because I know exactly how red and blue sapphires look like, how clear or dark various precious stones are. A pink sapphire and a pink diamond from far away could look similar. Pink sapphire is not an expensive piece of jewellery while a pink diamond is one of the most expensive ever.

RFP: Which aspirations in our nowadays society make luxury and art come closer to charity?

VVZ: I think today we live in a very difficult, huge consumption society where some of the big brands have totally taken over – the art world, for instance. When they show an artist, suddenly his value goes up tremendously, because the artist is at their foundations. I am very critical about where the art world is going. The fashion groups control the magazines because they pay for the advertising. They control art because they have the museums. They control actors because they use them in advertising campaigns, for example, if they are less famous, they might have a better chance for acting in a movie. Youth is controlled by the fashion groups, as well. A fifteen-year girl thinks that if she does not have a certain kind of bag, she is nobody. Instead of developing her self-consciousness and self-esteem, she is actually attracted to becoming something like a little soldier of the fashion groups.

I am convinced that if you do charity, 100% of the benefits have to go to the charity project. I think that what Ralph Lauren does with the pink-pony T-shirts for breast cancer research is a good concept. I buy the T-shirts and I know money goes to this purpose. It is not the same with other concepts like selling a Chanel bag for a crazy amount of money and half of it going for charity. Today, who knows what really happens during charity fashion shows? How much money do they spend organising the fashion shows? How much money goes in the end to the actual charity? I am a bit reluctant to these events.

RFP: How did it happen that you discovered the Slaughter House in Thailand?

VVZ: My father has been helping financially the Human Development Foundation that Father Joe Maier, the American priest, set up. I decided one day to go there and I completely fell in love with the place, the children, with the hard work this priest has been doing for the past 30 years in one of the poorest places of the world, the swamps of Bangkok. I just decided I was going to spend time with my camera there, I was going to try to do something and I came up with the idea of doing this book. My friend, Caroline Scheufele from Chopard saw my project and she asked me how she could help me. Together we had the idea to organise a charity event in St. Moritz and we raised 380.000 dollars that night selling the book, my pictures and an angel that she designed. This money went to the Foundation. This was a great charity project.

RFP: Tomorrow the PhotoMarket in Stockholm will start and you take part in it. Where else can your photography be seen this year?

VVZ:  I have an exhibition in London in September and another one in Brussels in November.

Vernissage 15 April 2015

Special Thanks go to Blanca Bernheimer and Simone Nickl

⌘           Vanessa von Zitzewitz is an internationally recognised photographer for inimitable nudes, society portraits and underwater pictures of Qatar horses. Born in 1970 in Hamburg, she spent her childhood between the USA, France and Monaco. She studied at the famous Parson School of Design in Paris. At the age of 21, she had already presented her first portrait exhibition in Paris and published a book – “Ombre bianche”, Editions Cercle d’Art. Her collaboration with Cartier began when she was 26 thanks to her personality and daring aesthetics and culminated in a work for celebrating 150 years of activity of the French jewellery company. She was the first woman to become an international ambassador for Canon. Lately, she has been dedicating herself to act photography that strikes by significance, artistic vision, natural elegance and virtuosity. For her charity involvement, Vanessa von Zitzewitz enjoyed the recognition of UNESCO. She lives with her husband and son in Monaco.

This article has been selected into the book “Beauty Elegance Creativity – 12 Interviews on the Act of Creation” published by Roxana Florina Popa


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