Smells like Liya Kebede


Rose, iris and orange blossom.

Smells like Liya Kebede.

Photographs by Juergen Teller
Perfume blended by Daniela Andrier

I’m often asked the question: ‘What is beauty for you?’

But I don’t really think in those terms. I just find a lot of things are beautiful when you open your mind. Making these pictures really made me think – not so much about beauty or models, but how was I going to shoot them, and where, and how will they come out. Stuff like that. It’s why I’m often quite nervous before a shoot.

The night before I was shooting Liya in Paris, I found myself having a really odd dream. And I’m not sure where this came from. It clearly had something to do with the fact that I’d photographed a plastic surgeon in June. I was very dubious about that whole scene, and I certainly feel it is completely unnecessary for me to even consider anything like that. But this plastic surgeon really intrigued me – a lot of what he was saying made sense, he seemed very proficient – and I liked him.

He also said he knows my work well. Since most fashion photographers’ pictures are so heavily airbrushed, he uses mine as a reference for his own work. That certainly perplexed me.

Anyway, that night, I had this dream in which I had to photograph an older lady instead of Liya. ‘You can’t photograph me yet, though,’ said the lady, ‘We have to go to my plastic surgeon first.’

All of sudden, I found myself at the plastic surgery with these two muscular guys in all white, violently taking me, instead of the lady, down to the chair. I was shouting, ‘No, you’ve got the wrong person, I totally don’t want any of that. I’m fine, I’m happy with myself.’

Then they gave me something and I was out cold.

When I woke up and looked in the mirror, it was the worst sight you could possibly imagine; it didn’t look like me anymore. My face was all stretched and one of my ears was hanging right down. ‘Guys!’ I started shouting, ‘What the hell has happened here?’

‘Oh, I’m really sorry,’ replied one of them. ‘That was a bit of a mistake…’

I suddenly woke up and found myself sweating in bed. Then I had to take the photographs of Liya.

Juergen Teller, September 2014