The fashion photographer Juergen Teller seems like someone who’s pretty secure in his masculinity; still, he was surprised to discover that one of his self-portraits had been included in last fall’s Musée d’Orsay survey “Masculine/Masculine: The Nude Man in Art From 1800 to the Present Day.”
“I saw myself surrounded by Rodin, Picasso, Cézanne, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and that kind of triggered this whole thing,” Teller told the Cut at the June 20 opening of his new show, “Macho,” an ironically titled selection of self-portraits at the Athens, Greece–based Deste Foundation. The photos, many of them nudes, run the gamut of masculinity, with Teller alternately appearing as a slouching man-child, moody loner, and tender father. As the art dealer Jeffrey Deitch put it, “They are really funny, but also very profound images about the aging of man.”
Teller says his cameo at the Musée d’Orsay came at a particularly strange time in his life. “I had just started to have problems with my lower back from photographing in an awkward position for so many years,” he said, crouching down with an air camera to demonstrate. He hired a personal trainer, but instead of feeling stronger, he often found himself “exhausted” and — adding insult to the injury — dressed in ridiculous neon-colored workout gear. The contrast between the glorified men of art history and Teller’s bodily reality is at the heart of the new show, which runs through October 29.
This fall he’ll be returning to more familiar territory, releasing a new photography book with Louis Vuitton. (Teller began collaborating with the label’s new head, Nicolas Ghesquière, having reportedly parted ways with its former designer, Marc Jacobs, after refusing to shoot Miley Cyrus.) For now, though, he’s doing his best to navigate an unaccustomed role. He admitted that the revealing pictures made him feel vulnerable. “This afternoon I thought, ‘Fuck, I don’t want to be at this opening,’” he said. “I normally never wear trousers — I wear gym shorts — but today I thought, ‘I have to protect myself,’” he said, gesturing to his white pants.