Bitch I’m Madonna: Read extracts from LOVE16.5 cover star’s interview

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In our exciting special edition of LOVE, LOVE 16.5 ‘LOVE BY MERT ALAS’, supported by Marc Jacobs, Madonna stars alongside her son Rocco in his first ever modelling assignment. LOVE 16.5 launches on the 19th September 2016 during London Fashion Week.

With no hair or makeup, Mert captures a 10-page reportage of Madonna at his house in Hampstead in the early hours, ‘Madonna 2:00AM by Mert Alas’.

Madonna tells Murray Healy in the accompanying interview with LOVE 16.5 how “acceptance by the establishment equals death” and says: “I don’t consider myself a pop act, I consider myself an artist. And it’s an artist’s responsibility to be revolutionary in our work. It’s our responsibility, our duty and our privilege.”

On the burden of fame, she says: “I was already famous before social media, so for me fame isn’t the burden. Fame is the manifestation or the by-product of my work, and that was two decades before social media. Now to me the burden is people are more focused on fame than actually doing the work or being an artist. Now it’s easy to become famous. What isn’t easy is to develop and grow as an artist without being distracted or consumed with fame.”

Madonna also tells LOVE 16.5: “I like Instagram because it’s like keeping a diary and every day I get to share different aspects of my personality, my life, and what inspires me, what infuriates me, or what causes I want to fight for. It allows me to be mysterious, ironic, provocative or proud. I get to use it as a platform to bring attention to people or issues that I think are important. It allows me to be the curator of my life.”

In LOVE 16.5, Mert, who shortly after shooting Madonna, embarked on a project exploring the idea of the voyeuristic essence of the camera for a 70-page photographic portfolio. It resulted in him shooting beautiful men in Berlin, LA and London. Rocco was photographed in the final stage of the project in London.

Mert Alas says: “I have become very intrigued by the new generation of kids I witnessed rising up in Berlin, Russia, the UK and the USA. At first they gave me the impression of skinhead punks but they embody so much more! They have substance, sensitivity, creativity and personal, inimitable style. These are cool kids who create music, poetry and art. I guess the fascination was the genesis of this project! I wanted to capture not just their style but the liberated sensibility that it represents and the meaning behind it. It is not just aesthetics but a visceral effect on life as its lived in the real world.”

Cao Fei, a quietly determined artist whose work exposes the void between the cold, hard mundanities of material life and their digitally imagined fantasy alternatives also features in LOVE 16.5. Katie Grand first met Cao Fei in Vienna last year when she went to see her exhibition at the Secession Museum: “I was immediately struck by how cool she was. Like Madonna she’s a strong woman who doesn’t take any shit.”

Vintage, Unpublished Photos — and Memories — of Madonna (and Kate Moss)

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Ask Peter Lindbergh which year of his career he’d most like to relive, and he has plenty of good options. 1988 comes to mind: It’s the year he shot the iconic “white shirt” photo of Linda Evangelista, Karen Alexander, Christy Turlington, Estelle Lefébure, Tatjana Patitz and Rachel Williams at the beach — an image that would launch the careers of the then-unknown models, and of Lindbergh himself. It is regarded as the first artifact of the supermodel era. Or maybe 1994, the year he shot Madonna in a tribute to Martha Graham (never-before-seen photos from that session are in the slide show here, along with previously unpublished shots of Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen and Lara Stone). Or 2002, the year he shot his second Pirelli calendar and became the first photographer to be exhibited at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum.

But Lindbergh has a different answer: “I would live the last 12 months again, as they have been extremely crazy: an unbelievable amount of projects, challenges, experimentation, freedom; extremely creative adventures, and a lot of satisfaction, too,” he told T in an email. It’s true: It’s been a big year for Lindbergh. He’s spent the last few months prepping a huge solo show at the Kunsthal Rotterdam opening Sept. 10, “A Different Vision on Fashion Photography,” which shares its title with a weighty upcoming Taschen monograph of the same name. He’s also recently wrapped the 2017 Pirelli calendar — he’s the only photographer who’s ever shot three — featuring Nicole Kidman, Robin Wright, Julianne Moore and others of their milieu. “Not to forget that my seventh grandchild is about to be born in the Villa Medici in Rome,” he adds.

Throughout the book’s 500-plus pages, the affection Lindbergh has always had for his subjects is constantly apparent. His photos, almost all in black and white, have always favored personality over polish; and his ultimate concern is how his models and actresses themselves wish to be portrayed. He mentions a 2013 interview of Kate Moss in which she told Nick Knight that the photos Lindbergh did with Linda Evangelista had inspired her to become a model. “She complained, laughing, in this interview that I had never worked with her in the same serious way,” he says. “I called her and said: ‘When we work in two weeks for David Yurman, stay two more days and we’ll work on a 30-page story about you for Italian Vogue.’ She was, right in this moment, changing into a new, interesting Kate. More woman, more raw, grown up and deeper. This very important change in Kate — that’s what I was interested in capturing.”

In reflecting on his career so far, Lindbergh brings up his friend Grace Coddington, whom he remembers saying that “fashion photography has a job to do, and that is to show fashion.” He — respectfully — begs to differ. “Here is my answer to Grace, my good old friend of over 30 years: Fashion photography should not be reduced to only documenting clothes after the collections have launched, and to help the industry to sell clothes, but should be given the freedom to exist in a much larger context — much larger than fashion itself.”