Photographing fame is an art form in and of itself, and now through June 5, the images of celebrity and fashion photographer Markus Klinko are on view at The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton.
The exhibition titled, “A Flight of Fine Art,” features Klinko’s photography of David Bowie, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears others. His work encapsulates the glamor of Hollywood in the early part of the 21st century.
“He really defined the 2000s,” said Andrea McCafferty, who co-owns The White Room Gallery with Kat O’Neill. “Being in the Hamptons, there are so many celebrities out here, I don’t really think a lot of art galleries out here show a lot of celebrity photography. So for one, it’s unique, it’s also being an international artist, he is a Swiss artist residing in California, so it’s introducing it to the Hamptons as well.”
The exhibit at The White Room Gallery, described by Klinko as a “2000s retrospect” represents a mix of different celebrities, and features a singular photo without a solo celebrity focus, which Markus considers a crossover work.
The piece named “Natural Villains V2” features a blonde model in lingerie with a small white dog, standing in front of a piece from Klinko’s David Bowie collection where Bowie is holding a wolf on a leash. The contradiction of femininity and masculinity is the focus of the piece.
“Natural Villains V2” is one of two black and white pieces in the exhibit and stands out due to its massive size and contrast from the rich colors of other pieces in the collection.
Klinko used an exhibit from a gallery in Australia as the backdrop to create the work, and he incorporated the gallery owner’s dog in the shoot. “I thought it would be very funny,” he said.
McCafferty describes The White Room Gallery as eclectic, and said that Klinko’s work fits in well with the pop art aesthetic of the space.
Klinko, originally from Switzerland, is currently living in California. He was raised playing music and after years of hating playing piano, he convinced his parents to let him try the harp and eventually became a well known classical touring harpist.
In 1994, a problem with his hand led to him pausing his musical career and he decided to become a photographer, despite having no experience.
“I quit my job as a concert harpist and bought a book about photography by Ansel Adams and just read about photography and how a camera works and then got myself a bunch of equipment,” Klinko said. “Again, without having taken any pictures ever before, and then I started doing tests with models and the rest is kind of history.”
Klinko has created a career full of collaboration with celebrities and major brands, including editorials for publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He describes the aesthetic of his work as high glamour and it can clearly be seen in the luxurious looks of the focus of the art and the rich colors of his pieces.
Klinko was approached by David Bowie and his wife Iman to shoot Iman for her book cover, and later, Bowie’s 2002 Heathen album cover.
Bowie envisioned an old Hollywood and Humphery Bogart inspired shoot for the cover. After the release of the album, Klinko was approached by London GQ to create an editorial with Bowie.
At the time, Bowie was touring for the new album and was unable to do another shoot. With Bowie’s permission, Klinko created a shoot with body doubles that he described as a “fantasy work.” He created the images of Bowie holding the wolves on leashes as photo compositions.
Following Bowie’s death in 2016, Klinko opened his first exhibit at a gallery in Miami, showing unreleased photos from his shoot with Bowie.
His creative process starts with collaboration with the celebrity focus of his shoot. Klinko described shooting with Britney Spears, being fun and playful for hours on set and spending hours in Mariah Carey’s personal closet to select her wardrobe for their shoot.
Klinko also said that while he often has a large team during shoots, the celebrities’ own personalities shine through as they often suggest certain things to define themselves during the shoots.
He also said he always maintains spontaneity during his shoots, such as embracing changes in weather.
Klinko has a passion for mythology and uses this history and culture as inspiration.
“As an inspiration when I photograph celebrities I love to have that ambition to almost represent them as gods and goddesses,” Klinko said. “The idea behind that is that I think that in our time our society tends to treat celebrities almost as if they are gods and goddesses.
“I like to think of my work as a mirror that I’m holding up for society to look and say, ‘Oh this is what we are doing, we are really worshiping celebrities’ so everybody can decide on their own whether that is a good thing or a bad thing,” he added. “I’m just merely functioning as a mirror.”
“A Flight of Fine Art” featuring the work of celebrity photographer Markus Klinko runs through June 5 at The White Room Gallery, 2415 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton. An opening party for the show will be held Saturday, May 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. with DJ Willy G. For more information, visit thewhiteroom.gallery.