Pierre Winther is a world-renowned conceptualist, raconteur, image-maker and visionary. For over three decades, the Copenhagen-born artist has pioneered the realms of photography and film. He seamlessly moves across both mediums, expanding on one to create the other, producing high-concept visuals that innovate as much as they inspire.
Further, Winther is credited with revolutionizing fashion photography, ushering in a new era of expression that goes beyond beautiful aesthetics to tell inimitable, unconventional stories. Winther has done all of this without the aid of digital technology, a feat almost unheard of in photography today. His rich oeuvre has been exhibited widely and is held in private collections worldwide.
With his mind deeply rooted in cinema, Winther composes each image impeccably, telling entire narratives in a single moment. He captures the point at which the story reveals itself, like the essential action of a temporal scene frozen in time. Such images transcend their static motif, nurturing curiosity, prompting the viewer to engage their imaginations, and to complete the story within their minds.
The inherent cinematic quality in Winther´s images make his characters feel very real, even when they inhabit a visual world that seems quite extraordinary. Timeless dramas unfold through depictions of organized chaos, presented in bold, saturated hues. He uses lighting and composition to propel his subjects from the surface of the image, allowing them to live among made-up and sometimes hyper-real worlds in ways that remain natural, human, and organic. This approach empowers the viewer to go deep within their imagination, to push the confines of subject matter and location into a mind-space of metaphor, all the while retaining the integrity of the moment.
One of Winther’s most celebrated pictures is “Shark Riding.” The provocative vision of an underwater city-slicker with sunglasses riding a 17-foot longTiger Shark is part of “The Under Water Project,” which hints at parallels between the ocean environment and the dangers of the urban landscape. The awardwinning composition is a combination of visual elegance and a representation of people living on the edge. The entire shoot took place on Great Barrier Reef/Australia with a crew of over 20 people. It was produced without using any computer manipulation—a practice integral to the artist’s technique.
Delving more into the human psyche, Winther’s project “This is Not America” profiles a suite of hooded men who call to mind America’s deplorable racist group, the Ku Klux Klan. Shot in moody black and white, the figures are menacing in various scenarios: chatting at the bar; posed in formation; or swimming—still hooded—in a pool. His color shots of the series are more abstract: a person hooded yet barefoot; a lone man with a modern, Gaudi-esque church in the background. That’s when it becomes clear: this is not America. These are not KKK members, but rather religious penitents, in traditional dress worn on Easter in Sevilla, Spain, a custom dating back to the 1300s. Once we understand the truth, the message also becomes clear: we must not succumb to snap judgements. In this way, Winther invites the viewer to step out of their comfort zone and look deeper to expand perceptions. With these, and other artworks, Winther explores societal norms and human behavior through a dark, irreverent lens.
It’s clear that for Winther, strong concepts are what drive the work, while the medium is almost incidental. For instance, his most radical artistic treatments have been translated into award-winning commissions for Dunhill / Richmond Group, Finlandia, Hugo Boss, Nike, and JVC. Winther enjoys both a cult and commercial following because of experimental, yet iconic campaigns for brands like Diesel and Levi’s. His groundbreaking editorial features spreads for The Face, iD, Rolling Stone, Vibe, and Vogue continue to change what is thought possible of the printed page. Pierre Winther currently works in Berlin and New York City.