Ellen von Unwerth – HEIMAT book and exhibition at TASCHEN Gallery

One of favorite renowned fashion and music photographer Ellen von Unwerth just launched her latest book, ‘Heimat’, where she revisits her childhood homeland to shoot a posse of gorgeous sexy girls out for fun and adventure amid the region’s undulating fields; age-old traditions; and deep, mysterious forests.

In a very sexy and amusing way, Von Unwerth’s heroines demonstrate the attributes and attractions of the region, whether munching on pretzels, striding out across pristine pastures, or seducing lederhosen-clad farmhands (and each other). Blending old-world charm with a rebellious edge and a sly subversion of traditional gender roles, Heimat bursts with fresh, provocative eroticism, tied up with wit, laced with an abiding love for a proud and beautiful region.

And if you are a fan like us, you should get your hands on the Collector’s Edition of 1,500 copies, numbered and signed by Ellen von Unwerth ($850) as well as her gorgeous Limited Art Edition of 100 numbered copies (No. 1–100), each with original photo print, signed by Ellen von Unwerth ($2,000).

“Heimat”

These farmland chores sound boring as all hell until they’re re-envisioned as a campy Bavarian fantasy in “Heimat,” a series by German photographer Ellen von Unwerth.

The photos have been compiled in a 454-page art tome published by Taschen, which is accompanied by a gallery show of blown-up images at the publisher’s West Hollywood exhibition space.
At first, it’s hard to know where to look inside the huge warehouse-style gallery. A girl peeking through a thick pretzel stands out, as do two girls standing in a boat on a lake, a fish hanging from the end of a rod. On another wall, three buxom models coyly peel potatoes with knives, turning the banal erotic.

Von Unwerth’s inspiration for the show came from her teen years growing up in rural Bavaria, after a childhood spent in Frankfurt. She considers the Bavarian landscape her “heimat,” a German word that roughly translates to “homeland” — but not quite.

The German word carries with it a sense of longing for, and fidelity to, the place an individual acquired their early memories. For von Unwerth, that longing came much later in life, in part because it was never a place where she felt that she fit in.
“I moved to Bavaria when I was 12 years old,” she says. “At the time I was like a hippie, and I wasn’t very into the Bavarian culture. I thought it was very conservative and too traditional and too cliché, but then being away from it for so long, for more than 30 years, I kind of have a nostalgic feeling for it.”

After World War II, German heimat films idealized pastoral scenery, focusing on the natural beauty and provincialism found in rural areas. In von Unwerth’s photographs, she embraces this sense of heimat in relation to Bavarian culture just enough to parody it.

For the shoots, von Unwerth chose locations in Bavaria that had not yet been modernized. Scenes were staged on mountainsides, and inside domestic farmhouses and huge wooden barns.
Sometimes the girls were half nude, sucking their fingers while kneading dough for the traditional German dumplings, while at other times, they were getting cozy together, crammed four into a bed. The walls of a staged bedroom are covered images of the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus and haloed saints.

In these scenes, Von Unwerth reimagines what she remembers as a very conservative and gender-normative world. As is often the case in her work, she’s portraying strong women enjoying themselves in ways that are both subversive and sexual. This allows for a sense of playfulness in the imagery, as well as tongue-in-cheek critique.
“It’s a parody of Bavaria, you know. You have those women with the busts to fill out those dirndl, and the lederhosen, you know, it’s so sexy,” von Unwerth says. “I just wanted to make it a bit camp and exaggerate it.”

Ellen von Unwerth collaborates with Taschen on new exhibition

Ellen von Unwerth’s lens has long centred on erotic femininity; hers is a name synonymous with photographs of beautiful women in their smalls, and indeed, it’s here she excels. Now, in celebration of her native Bavaria and the German word Heimat – which, we’re led to believe, bears no proper translation in the English language – von Unwerth has been tapped by Taschen Gallery for a new exhibition. Marrying her kitsch aesthetic with the Alpine countryside, the show, titled Heimat, captures a group of girlfriends as they explore the great outdoors: peeling potatoes, catching fish and riding horses, all the while donning vintage inspired outfits that range from full floral swimsuits to traditional dirndls. Shot over a period of a year, the subversive collection marries the wit of von Unwerth’s camera with her passion for the country.

Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the opening night of Ellen von Unwerth’s photography exhibition at TASCHEN Gallery on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Model, Nikita Andrianova, Athena Pasadena, photographer Ellen von Unwerth, guest, and Mosh at the opening night of Ellen von Unwerth’s photography exhibition at TASCHEN Gallery on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Benedikt Taschen, Ellen von Unwerth, Grumpy cat and her owner at the opening night of Ellen von Unwerth’s photography exhibition at TASCHEN Gallery on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
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