Cathleen Naundorf | Secret Times | Fotografiska Stockholm

25 May — 09 September, 2018

Cathleen Naundorf

Secret Times

Cathleen Naundorf has worked for over 20 years with legendary Haute Couture maison including CHANEL, Dior, Valentino, Gaultier, Armani and Elie Saab. She is consummating in building deep rapport and trust in these relationships and shares the same passion for the art of fashion. And now, Cathleen Naundorf is holding her first exhibition at Fotografiska, Secret Times, featuring her work which embraces a true artist’s aesthetic in Polaroids and large format black and white prints. All images have been shot in unique, iconic locations. Captured in breath-taking photographs of beauty, mystery and divine lighting.

you can lose everything tomorrow

Cathleen Naundorf is a German-French art director and photographer. Born in East Germany, she has since the 1990s been based in Paris, dedicating herself to fashion and art photography. Her work has been published in major international fashion magazines, as well as in several books.
In the world of Cathleen Naundorf, nothing ever stands still. Everything moves in energetic, elegant circles creating a dynamic spiral of events which always leads forwards. It all began with painting in her childhood in East Germany, as part of a very creative engineer family in a home full of books, arts and antiques. Growing up during the cold war gave Naundorf a lifelong lust for freedom, staking out a path and a passion that she has followed ever since.

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a high sensibility and a creative mind. In my head there were always self-created movies or fantasy pictures, and later through photography my passion became my job. ”

“For me, life is about never ending learning and developing. During difficult times, I have often experienced that life itself carries you, it does not matter what comes. In 1985, we left East Germany carrying only what we could in our two hands, yet it was worth losing our wealth to gain our freedom; I came to learn and understand you can lose everything tomorrow but nobody can take what you have in your mind.”

“I have always been fascinated by places of transition, like railway stations or airports. People come or go, everybody with a different story, leaving behind old life or arriving with hope for something new…or even not knowing where to go. Interesting, isn’t it?”

Naundorf started out as a photojournalist long before she turned to fashion with her own unique style, photographing haute couture dresses in the most exclusive locations.

Entering Cathleen Naundorf's pictorial realm is to experience layer upon layer of rich detail and an analogue craftsmanship that makes her one of the leading photographer of our time. Naundorf creates staged fashion worlds characterised by vivid, cinema like scenes...

...Naundorf works with analogue large-format cameras 20 x 30 cm combined with Polaroid film, resulting in originals with a unique veneer that cause us to be astounded by her technical prowess and no less seduced by the worlds she creates. Fotografiska will show Cathleen Naundorf Secret Times exhibit with approximately 60 works from May 24th- 9th September with a focus on her fashion photography," says Johan Vikner, Exhibition Manager at Fotografiska.

living out of a backpack

Nomads from places like Mongolia were her subjects, a job which lead to travel with the Dalai Lama. She travelled the world for many years, living out of a backpack and living with nomads like the Indians in Amazonia or the Kazahk people. 8 books were published. Naundorf’s story is full of those incidents where one thing leads to another; life itself carries her.

Another of those contacts was famous fashion photographer Horst P. Horst, who had grown up in the same little village as Naundorf and became her first mentor. He himself was very inspired by surrealism and was happy to impart his knowledge to her.

Later, after an encounter in which she photographed master embroider Francoise Lesage, she started following another creative ‘nomadic tribe’: in a behind-the-scenes job, tagging along in the luxurious but hard-working world of fashion, traveling to various venues and shows. Finally, Naundorf decided she wanted to settle down, and did so in Paris.

“Horst P. Horst saw a talent in my travel photography. He said, “Why you don’t try fashion photography”. I never really have been interested in fashion trends, but Horst ‘s photographs were art. He became my mentor.”

“1997 when Galliano started working for Dior, fashion became with him that mix of ethnic and artistic fashion. That talked to me. I was interested in this kind of work. I started working with Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier and I began passionately falling in love with Haute Couture. ”

“Elie Saab and I, we understood one another immediately. Our fascination for elegance, femininity and glamour enabled us explore several projects together.”

“Later on, I asked certain couture maison if I could use their haute couture dresses for my own private projects. Christian Lacroix, Ungaro, Gaultier opened their doors to me …”

Then one fashion house lead to another house of Haute Couture. Dior and CHANEL followed. They opened up their archives of unique garments to be captured in Naundorf’s very special style.

“When I decided to use Polaroids material, I returned without my conscience back to painting and suddenly the circle was complete.”

“Curiosity has always been a strong driving force for me. I like to listen to people’s life stories. A good picture must tell a story. My photojournalistic experiences are reflected in my fashion shoots. I create stories for each photo shoot, from a collections information I find and focus on a story. A theme is developed and finalized in storyboards for each shoot and setting. “


Cathleen Naundorf was born in the divided Germany of 1968. Her home of Weißenfels was the same hometown as her famous photography mentor, Horst P. Horst, who she consistently references in her work.

Although she grew up in East Germany, Naundorf was able to move to Munich to study painting and photography. She apprenticed as a photo assistant in New York, Singapore, and Paris and was later commissioned by Glamour and Vogue quickly becoming one of the leading high fashion photographers.
She brought a steely intelligence and elegance to the world of fashion photography. Naundorf’s reputation grew considerably in 2005, when she began her series on haute couture fashion, focusing on the French Haute Couture houses. She published these images in the book, Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf by Prestel in 2012. Naundorf has been working privately with Valentino Garavani on several projects and has been published in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, W, among others having had numerous exhibitions in Germany, the UK, Spain, and the USA.

She won the American Photography Award in 2016.

Naundorf lives in Paris and London and she continues to place her faith in the dramatic power of pure beauty and elegance.

2018 Rizzoli will publish her large work about CHANEL.

Cathleen Naundorf | Secret Times | Fotografiska Stockholm