Celebrity Photographer Juergen Teller Gets Personal in His Latest Exhibition, the Largest to Date

Juergen Teller, Mother With Crocodile, Bubenreuth, 2002. All images courtesy of the artist.

When Juergen Teller took on his latest venture, his first thought was, “How do I handle this?” he remembers over the phone. “I knew I didn’t want to do that Art Basel cubicle thing.”

The venture in question is “I need to live,” the largest exhibition of the iconic photographer’s 30-plus-year career, which opens at the Grand Palais Éphémère on Paris’s Champ de Mars tomorrow. Rather than cordon off the works on view by era or theme, Teller is opting for something far more intimate.

Artwork by Juergen Teller.

Designed with a single entry-point, the show unfolds “like a film or book” of Teller’s life. “It starts with four rather heavy photographs,” he explains. First, a portrait of Teller as a baby, taken by his father. “It looks just like my 6-month-old daughter, and also like a photograph I would have taken,” he says.

Next, a snapshot of an article announcing his father’s suicide. Then comes one of Teller’s mother with her head in a crocodile’s jaws, followed by a black-and-white shot of the photographer himself standing naked on his father’s grave. “You see this absurdity, the frightening aspect of life, the grotesqueness,” he muses of the show’s forceful preface.

Artwork by Juergen Teller.

But there’s joy and tenderness, too. The exhibition’s title, for example, is born of a will to transcend these darker moments. “My father chose to go this way, but I want to live—for my wife, for my children, and for myself. I need to live.”

Toward the end of the exhibition, a series of iconic celebrity shots—Kim Kardashian, Iggy Pop—are reenacted with the help of 6-month-old Iggy, Teller’s daughter with his wife and collaborator Dovile Drizyte. “It was an adventure for all three of us,” concludes Teller. “We had fun.”

"I need to live" will be on view from December 16, 2023 through January 9, 2024 at the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris.