Making it on her Own.
Vanessa von Zitzewitz is not the type of artist who aspires just to follow the path taken by her masters, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Patrick Demarchelier, or to tread the narrow line between homage and plagiarism.
She is a force to be reckoned with, a whirlwind of happy energy, a thinker who affirms herself and her talent.
As a young photographer, Vanessa quickly made her mark. Her first contracts were with well-known luxury brands. She has immortalized film stars, fashion and art luminaries and important political figures.
In 1997, Sarah Jessica Parker arrived at a shoot that had been organized by Cartier and asked a young blond where the photographer was. "It’s me,” replied Vanessa, conscious that it was not the reply that the actress was expecting.
She published Cartier’s Untamed as part of an event that celebrated the 150-year anniversary of the French jewelry company. It marked the end of a collaboration that consisted of a series of six books and numerous exhibitions in NYC, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Untamed gives an insight into her personality.
Vanessa’s bold mise-en-scene and the daring aesthetic that she created for Cartier and other famous brands propelled her into a closed circle of established photographers. Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, Mick Jagger, George Clooney, Victoria Beckham, Luciano Pavarotti and Gianni Agnelli have all been the subject of her gaze. Many of her portraits are world famous.
Graff, the high-end jewelry company, contacted her to ask her to become the official photographer of their world-renowned diamonds, a collaboration that included five books and a series of advertising campaigns.
Her travels inspire her to question the world around her. She is sensitive, generous and passionate and is aware that her position and status can be put to the service of others.
Charitable work often involves pomp and circumstance, but Vanessa feels that her art can be engaged for the benefit of helping people.
Monachrome was published in 1999. It was her first philanthropic venture.
Her role as photographer to the stars enabled her to put her contact list to good use when she published a book of black and white portraits for the benefit of the Monegasque Red Cross. Diane Kruger, Monica Bellucci, Shirley Bassey, Ringo Starr and many others took part and shared their hopes for the new millennium.
HSH Albert II, Prince of Monaco wrote the preface for the book. Monachrome marked a new departure in the career of the young artist. Its bold and daring vision, represented by a naked Carla Bruni on the front cover, encapsulates her professional standing as well as her philanthropic aspirations.
Vanessa was the first woman to become an international ambassador for Canon.
She is always striving for change and her vision is constantly redefined as her life evolves and through her everyday human encounters.
In 2008, Vanessa’s focus shifted to a new endeavor when she became a social observer and committed herself to raising awareness.
Slaughterhouse Angels gives the West an insight into the daily existence of the children in the Mercy Centre in Bangkok.
The book certainly makes an impact. It portrays the heartbreaking truth about the lives of the slum children, the street survivors, who have escaped misery and are cared for under the protective gaze of Father Joe, the co-founder of the Human Development Foundation and the Mercy Centre community where Vanessa spent numerous weeks every year.
She came across both despair and hope; she knows the background of each of the three hundred children; many of whom are affected by AIDS. She is well aware of their life expectancy. She focuses her lens on their smiles, their games and the background that they have escaped from.
Slaughterhouse Angels is an art documentary photography book. The entire profits of the book and a photographic auction were donated to the Mercy Centre. She raised almost $400,000.
UNESCO recognized Vanessa for this initiative.
Art, passion and dedication.
Vanessa was asked to travel to Qatar to hold photo sessions with the Emir of Qatar and his family. This involved numerous trips and during one her stays she visited the royal Al Shaqab stables.
She is a talented horsewoman and competition jumper and has participated in various prestigious international riding events including the renowned Global Champions Tour that takes place in Valencia, Monaco and Chantilly.
With the blessing of H.E. Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar and H. E. Sheikha Al Mayassa, Vanessa was given the honor of undertaking a series of photographic works that took almost two years to complete and that gave birth to the unprecedented book Horses of Qatar: the legend of Al Shaqab, a 300 page art book, published by TeNeues.
In October 2009, she had the incredible privilege, as a living artist, at the age of 40, to exhibit her work at the Petit Palais national museum in Paris.
"I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this style of photography, it requires a silent complicity with horses," said an impressed Karl Lagerfeld on the opening night. "It portrays a sense of power that makes us feel as if we are in the presence of sculptures," he added.
Vanessa provided a new perspective. Her series of photographs of horses underwater has been viewed around the world. The spectacular mosaic of 5x7 meter photos took centre stage in the exhibition in the Petit Palais gallery.
The artist went far and beyond her personal limits in order to achieve her vision. Carrying just her camera, she submerged herself underwater alongside the horses in a bid to capture their magnificent dance-like movements, evoking an atmosphere that is reminiscent of the age-old myth of the unicorn.
Vanessa, the restless.
A combination of this distinctive vision and her diverse experiences inspire her to engage in issues that she is passionate about.
The recognition of her peers is not a means to an end; it doesn’t satisfy her hunger for more.
With her eyes on the viewfinder of her camera, her weapon of mass consciousness, she embodies her role as an artist.
In an ever-changing world, a plural world, a beautiful and ugly world, a progressive and hungry world.
She portrays things as they are, in darkness and in light. She represents a lucid truth and doesn’t seek to conceal contradictions.
‘Confrontational contradictions’ is an endless theme and ever present background on which Vanessa von Zitzewitz undertakes her role as a citizen and an artist who respects herself and renders herself a witness of time and humanity. In doing so, she contributes to the legacy of tomorrow, for a global society that far too often seeks to hide its indecencies and solitude. She thrives on its paradoxes.