Everyone is familiar with the concept of the lonesome cowboy, a legendary American figure that has become a universal symbol for freedom, adventure, and independence thanks to westerns starring the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. This is the image a well-known cigarette company had in mind when, back in 1992, they commissioned Dieter Blum for an advertising campaign that was to become a part of photo history. In a project that lasted almost twelve years, Blum travelled to Texas, New Mexico and Utah, the homelands of American cowboys, to accompany them as they went about their daily work. Searching for authenticity, Blum eschewed models and make-up and focused on the essential: man and his horse. From the lasso-swinging cowboy on the fiery mustang galloping across the Texas prairie to the lone rider against the background of a glowing sunset, Dieter Blum’s cowboys have long become iconic.
Blum’s distinct style includes a certain graininess and the use of bold colours, lending his photographs an almost cinematic drama. This powerful aesthetic is most visible in his breathtaking shots of Vladimir Malakhov, the results of a longstanding collaboration with the dancer. Blum was able capture Malakhov’s expressive yet weightless movements, showcasing the dancer’s almost super-human body control. Just for Blum, Malakhov and his ensemble allowed themselves to be photographed dancing in the nude. Every muscle, every form of bodily tension is revealed, yet the shots seem gentle and rhythmic, revealing an intimate, vulnerable side of the New York Times’ “best dancer in the world”.
In his photography, Dieter Blum seeks to uncover the truth buried within each image. This search has lead the artist to travel far and wide, from the United States to the African jungle and, involuntarily, the inside of a Ugandan prison cell. He has risen to lofty heights to capture fighter planes in formation, and has accompanied the Berlin Philharmonic and its maestro Herbert von Karajan, a portrait of whom won Blum a World Press Photo Award in 1981. Blum’s interest in photography was sparked at the age of eight when he began to experiment with a Voigtländer. Today, his photographs are known across the world. Blum’s images have already been published in influential German-language magazines Der Spiegel and Stern, as well as in National Geographic. They have also featured in numerous exhibits, including at the Berlin State Museums, the Venice Biennale, and in the Museum for Photography in Moscow.