An ASMP member since 1993, Ellen Von Unwerth‘s sexy aesthetic has been turning heads for many years. Breaking away from her early days as a circus performer and fashion model, she now enjoys tremendous acclaim as an editorial and advertising photographer with a provocative vision and a playful, yet wicked approach.
This hallmark style is masterfully articulated in Revenge, a hardcover photo novella that transforms a Victorian story line into an unfettered romp in the park. The book was photographed over three days at an estate on the outskirts of Paris and boasts 190 black and white views.
A bevy of maidens arrive by chauffeured limousine at the Chateau of their guardian, the Baroness. They flock to the garden where they eat forbidden fruit and frolic in a mud bath. Enter the corsets and ropes, blindfolds, whips and chains. Lured to captivity by the Baroness and her wicked servants, they are thus enslaved until, at long last, the girls overtake the keys to the chateau and get their revenge on the evil Baroness and her staff.
Revenge was released in April 2003 by Twin Palms Publishers, in tandem with exhibitions in New York, Berlin and Paris. The always provocative Ellen Von Unwerth has created a sadomasochistic story told in pictures.
Shot entirely in black and white, in Von Unwerth’s signature style, the exhibition is a playful and sexy narrative of sisters sent away to their aunt’s chateau, by their anguished mother, who has just lost “her husband, his ex, her brother, and his wife” in a cable car crash. With childhood memories of their aunt’s extravagant and luxurious lifestyle, the girls look forward to the adventure, only to arrive and face the disappointment of serving to their aunt’s — and her staff’s — twisted whims. Finally able to free themselves from her clutches, the book ends with the aunt receiving her just desserts.
Chapter 1: The Arrival
Chapter 2: The Garden
Chapter 3: Baroness’s Journal
Chapter 4: Capture
Chapter 5: Degradation Anyone?
Chapter 6: The Education of Marie-Louise Part 1
Chapter 7: Restraint
Chapter 8: Isabelle
Chapter 9: Discipline
Chapter 10: The Stable
Chapter 11: The Education of Marie-Louise Part 2
Chapter 12: Liberty
Chapter 13: Revenge
Chapter 14: The Tables are Turned
Chapter 15: Victory
The story is not for the timid. The images are powerful, provocative and sensual. Shot in a French chateau and set in the 20’s or 30’s flapper era, Von Unwerth has taken some of the worlds most beautiful fashion models (Tina Davis, Janelle Fishman, Sarabeth Stroller, Dorota Wójcik, Julie Ordon, Diana Stoessel, Minerva Portillo, Lenka Batkova, Sheila Ruschell, Micki Olin, Svenja Parotat, Nicole Laliberté, Travis Marshall, & Karim Bekka) and placed them in a story, similar in subject matter to The Story of O. There are over 200 pages of 12 stunning women dressed in every kind of sexy lingerie including corsets, stiletto high heels, see through panties, bustier, stockings, garters, and Peek-A-Boo bra’s. Then there are the more non standard items including masks, blindfolds, maids outfits, boots, collars, and a manacle here and there. In many images the women are topless or bare breasted. In others they are either completely nude or bottomless. There are also some upskirt pictures as well photographs of other sexually themed “games”.
There is probably no other photographer in the business with the exception of maybe Helmut Newton who could get such beautiful women to do such “kinky” photos and to have them turn out so beautiful.
“I love all the old pictures–of spanking and Bettie Page and corsets. But you can’t do spanking in fashion, so I wanted to do a project where I could really let go and get girls who also love those things. I thought it would be even more sexy when there was a story to go with it, so it wasn’t that difficult to write a little storyboard.
“I had chapters, so there were 10 drawings in total. Each girl had a character and I used the storyboard to explain the story to the girls. But there was still freedom to play.”
— Ellen Von Unwerth
All photographs in this album are from the REVENGE book but they’re mixed and appear not in the order like in the book.