Ellen Von Unwerth's guide to provocation

Fashion's greatest voyeur gives us her five-point manifesto as we debut her latest film

Nothing says provocative like a Playboy spread. The girls, the sex, the tits.  Shot through model-turned-photographer Ellen Von Unwerth's lens however, sex becomes a playful challenge and snapshot of feminine sexual empowerment. Take Unwerth's infamous 1995 Playboy shoot with Drew Barrymore: cutesy kittens, innocent playground settings and Barrymore’s pixie crop provoked the sordid stereotype, shifting provocation as we knew it firmly into the hands of the woman and her body. Unwerth applies her revered take on the erotic to this short film premiering on Dazed, showcasing a collaboration between Sister by Sibling and Swarovski. The age-old hot twins fantasy is bedecked in crystals and kitsch, licking lips seductively and inviting us to play.
In an exclusive insight into Unwerth’s world, she shared with us her five step guide to provocation. 


“Contrary to what others argue, I don’t agree that the digital revolution has caused the boundaries between fashion and pornography to blur. Art and fashion have always been influenced by eroticism, this goes back several hundred years if you think about it and look at the painting and art works from previous periods.”


“As a teenager I felt strong being a woman, and I was always provoking. It was a natural process to transfer this ethos into my pictures, which portray strong women full of life and personality.”


“For me it’s more exciting to become a voyeur, and photograph someone who is unaware of the camera – or who at least pretends not to be aware of the camera – then I get a real moment which most of the time is my perfect moment. My work as a photographer is very connected to my former profession as a model. At that time it was all about posing and standing still in front of the camera. This is how – by contrast – my style has a more reportage approach and a spontaneous, un-posed feeling and character.”


“A great model can play and slip easily into a role; someone who is free. I have a lot of muses. I like to work with Eva Herzigova, and it is always a great honour to have Naomi or Claudia in front of my camera. I would have loved the opportunity to Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando would have been amazing to shoot. The twins in the Sister by Sibling film really fascinated me. It was a big pleasure and so much fun to film and shoot with them. Twins are very special in the way they connect to each other physically and mentally.”


“Some of my biggest influences which still inspire me are Brassai, Helmut Newton, Madonna and Egon Schiele. I also love movies, mostly old ones. Fellini, Rosellini, Bergmann, Visconti, Elia Kazan and all the German expressionist movies of Fritz Lang.”

Sister by Sibling is part of the SS14 Swarovski Collective, an initiative supporting international emerging talent.