While his work on the runway is well documented, the designer’s lesser-known photography is just as much a testament to his irrepressible creativity
Volgograd countryside, Russia, 1986
Mugler spotted this striking 66-foot-tall crimson star atop a building while driving through the countryside in Volgograd, Russia at a time when visiting the Soviet Union was nearly impossible. Upon spotting the massive star, Mugler promptly asked model Angela Wilde to scale the building. The result is the now iconic photo of her on top of the star framed against a bright blue sky.
Les Infernales collection, Chrysler Building, 1988
Picture this: a ladder sticking out of a window at the top of New York City’s Chrysler building, Thierry Mugler’s body flattened across the ladder’s rungs stretching his camera out to get the perfect bird’s eye image of blonde bombshell Claude Heidemeyer wearing his designs, sprawled across the metal wing of the building two stories below. The risky maneuver only lasted a few seconds and two assistants held onto the other end of the ladder until Mugler got his shot and was lowered safely back inside the window.
Dauphine de Jerphanion in Paris, 1986
Mugler photographed Dauphine de Jerphanion, french model and his long time muse, against the ornate architecture of famous landmarks in France including the Grand Trianon at Versailles and the Trocadero esplanade in Paris. Mugler would transform de Jerphanion into a different Hollywood starlet every time. In this photo she is playing a character named “Widow of the Air,” dreamed up by Mugler.“I would go into makeup at 4 a.m. One day, I would be Eva Perón, the next, Marlene Dietrich,” she said. “Thierry Mugler was always reading the biographies of stars. He knew every movie,” the late model Dauphine de Jerphanion said in an interview with French magazine Stiletto in 2004.
Carol Miles in Mali, 1987
Mugler was so set on photographing the mud-based architecture of Mali’s mosques and royal palaces that he spent four hours drinking tea with the men of the town in order to get permission to photograph his model against the backdrop of the monumental adobe buildings. Upon receiving the authorization, Mugler asked model Carol Miles to perch on top of the massive rectangular pillars of the Mosque of Djenné .
Shana Zadrick, Cabazon Dinosaurs, 1991
Mugler fused the past and the present to create a world all his own. The Cabazon Dinosaurs roadside attraction in California served as the perfect setting for Mugler’s vision. In one photo from this playful series, a model hangs from the hand of a giant dinosaur in a shot reminiscent of King Kong, in another frame a model dances atop the prehistoric replica’s head.
Jerry Hall, New Mexico, 1995
Mugler directed and photographed Jerry Hall for the debut campaign of Angel perfume, his first foray into fragrance. Mugler waited all year to shoot at the right time of the season in White Sands, New Mexico. Makeup artists would start doing Hall’s makeup before sunrise in a rundown motel next to the park. Because Mugler timed the lighting perfectly, the shoot required no post-production. “Jerry, no matter the time of day or the conditions, was giving Jerry Hall to everyone from the firefighters on duty to the waitress serving pancakes at 6 in the morning. If they wanted a picture with her, she would always pull out the stops,” he told WWD in an interview last year.
Anna Bayle, Greenland, 1987
For an editorial in Greenland, Mugler took model Anna Bayle, his longtime muse, and a stylist on a boat and brought them out to sea so they could get a pristine shot against the icebergs. “It was around the summer solstice so we had the midnight sun. [Anna], this brave lady, would have to step onto the iceberg, positioned on tiny pieces of folded survival blankets hidden from view, and I would take the photo in about two seconds. Sometimes we’d wait for days to get the right light,” Mugler told Vogue.
Carol Wilson, New York, 1988
Mugler and Carol Wilson traveled around New York City’s Financial District, exploring the tops of building facades. Mugler was constantly taking risks to bring the image in his head to life. For this photo, he followed Wilson on the slanted roof to capture her mid-dance teetering on the ledge above the cityscape.
Iman, Sahara Desert, 1985
Hours of waiting and hair and makeup calls at 4am were required to create this captivating image of Iman in the Sahara Desert framed against the bright blue sky. For the shoot, Mugler’s team began doing Iman’s makeup in the middle of the night using a generator for light in order for her to be ready by the time the sun was at the optimal spot in the sky.
Evelyne Gaud-Peretti, Guilin Valley, China, 1985
Mugler found an endless source of inspiration in China, from the verdant forests of Guilin Valley where he photographed model Evelyne Gaud-Peretti to the bustling city of Beijing, where he spent time during his trip taking in the beauty of the diverse faces of its visitors. “When I was in China in the ‘80s, when it was still under hardline Communist rule, the government gave every Chinese citizen three days off to come to Beijing and see the sights, such as the Great Hall of the People and Mao’s tomb. On Tiananmen Square in Beijing, you would see the most incredible mix of ethnicities,” Mugler told Vogue.
Djimon Hounsou, White Sands, New Mexico, 1988
Mugler returned to the White Sands in New Mexico multiple times to photograph his subjects against the bright white, wave-like sand. For this shoot he invited his muse Djimon Hounsou who posed for the designer across various continents in the late 80s. Mugler discovered Hounsou when he was 22 and living on the streets of Paris and catapulted him to stardom. “I went from washing in fountains to becoming an international model overnight,” Hounsou recalls in an interview with Variety.