Ellen Von Unwerth was born in Germany’s town Frankfurt in 1954. She had been in foster care at times in Bavaria. After graduating from high school, she joined the circus as an assistant to do stunts and magic shows. When she was 20, she was approached by a photographer who invited her to model. Soon she shifted to Paris to chase her career. She modeled for some really good photographers of that era. She kept that profession for ten years in the world of fashion and enjoyed her field.
She felt that a model was restricted to listening orders regarding her poses. Hence she held a camera and decided to work behind it since she had gained experience in the field. With this step, she could let the models show some creativity in poses. At this time she was being given essential insight about photography by a photographer whom she was living with. Only after a few years, she came in to the light by doing a shoot for GUESS, Claudia Schiffer as the model. Works by Von Unwerth have been featured in magazines, such as Vanity Fair, The Face, i-D, Interview, Twill, Arena and Vogue. In 1991, she received first prize at the International Festival of Fashion Photography.
By 1998, the American Photo Magazine listed her among the Most Important People in Photography. Since this time, she has been on the radar as being among the best female photographers with a natural talent to capture the sensuality of women. She was lucky that she experienced modeling herself and this part of her career aids her in understanding models’ minds, unlike photographers who lack this know-how and are on the other end of the bridge. Ellen Von Unwerth did not like the static positions of models, having to stand in a single pose for a really long time, so she reversed this culture at least in her photography. She promoted playful, kinetic and progressing gestures and poses in a model.
Since the beginning of her career as an adult, she has been photographing or has been the subject of photography herself. In the industry, she is noted for her fashion photography because she pushes the limits female sexuality in photography in general and in fashion. She has created outstanding editorial pages for famous magazines. Additionally, she has made commercials and music videos. Hence she is not just a photographer but a director who specializes in femininity with eroticism.
Her work has been used for promotions and covers for albums. She promoted Duran Duran’s album in 1990 titled Liberty and in 1997 for Medazzaland. She also worked on other covers, like Pop Life by Bananarama, 1991; Am I the Kinda Girl? by Cathy Dennis, 1996; The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson, 1997; Saints and Sinners by All Saints, 2000; Life for Rent by Dido, 2003; Blackout by Britney Spears, 2007; Back to the Basics, Keeps Gettin’ Better: Decade of hit by Christina Aguilera, 2006 and 2008; and Talk That Talk and Rated by Rihanna.
In addition, Von Unwerth has been the director of commercial films for brands, including Clinique, Equinox, Revlon and among other. She has also published photo books flourishing with natural, unrestricted and sexy women. She has worked with many influential photographers, models, musicians, actors and other personalities. It can be said that she is addicted to photography.