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FEATURES

Christophe & Carolina: Finding Focus

Mira Dayal

Christophe von Hohenberg & Carolina von Humboldt met at a party in Christophe’s home in 2008. She was admiring the nude images on display, when he walked over and introduced himself as the photographer. . .

. . . And the rest is history. 

Acclaimed photographer Christophe von Hohenberg refects on his journey .

Christophe von Hohenberg casts a humble shadow for a world-renowned photographer. Despite the glitz and glamour that punctuated decades of his prolifc career shooting for the likes of Vanity Fair and Vogue, it was a youthful and composed fgure that greeted me on a recent sunny afternoon in New York. 

Born in Oyster Bay, NY, Christophe embraced the world of art at an early age when his mother brought him to St. Croix following her divorce from his father, a money manager. In stark contrast, his new stepfather was a passionate photographer who shot for Mercedes- Benz and Town & Country.

“Lights were always fashing and cameras all around, and I was told not to touch anything,” recalls Christophe, adding that his stepfather gave him his frst camera when he was 11 or 12. It was one of his stepfather’s old Rolleis, the preferred camera of Richard Avedon and other notable photographers in the 1960s. “I still use that camera today,” he added. 

Christophe attended various schools in New York, Vermont, Germany, Spain and France, studying a wide range of disciplines. Along the way, he studied with Rod Abramson, a protégé of the great French artist Fernand Léger, who encouraged him to enroll in drawing school.

“I wanted to be a renaissance man,’’ explains Christophe, adding that he was “drawn to the life of being a painter, the fantasy you read in Hemingway.” “We weren’t thinking about money then. We were thinking about education, seeing the world, spiritual awareness...then the philosophy was you never know what happens the next day.”

While exploring painting, Christophe began to associate with and assist photographers, which led him to New York, where he set out on his own. It was here that he ultimately gained international recognition for his portrait and lifestyle photography.

It wasn’t long before international style and fashion magazines took notice of his work, as did the Museum of Modern Art, which particularly liked a series he did on Spain.

In 1987, Vanity Fair magazine hired Christophe to shoot Andy Warhol’s memorial service. His assignment: to capture mini-skirts in mourning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, no one was wearing them.

“I was really worried about missing people going into the Church and I thought, ‘shit, no one is wearing miniskirts,’” recalled Christophe. “I had three cameras on me and then all of the people I knew started coming in at once, and I was snapping all over the place.”

“It wasn’t somber; it wasn’t really sad. It wasn’t happy. It was the end of a period and a time and that was it,’’ he added.

Christophe’s photographs from that day eventually flled his book, Andy Warhol: The Day The Factory Died, which captures images of Yoko Ono, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, George Plimpton, Tom Wolfe and others paying homage to the pop icon.

Reflecting on what he regards as the most critical catalyst in career growth, Christophe says it all comes down to “guidance,” which he said he wished he had earlier. “I was just in it and having fun with it and traveling with this little world of mine.”

One change Christophe did not make as he progressed on his long artistic journey was the switch to digital cameras. He remains dedicated to flm. “I use analogue and hardly ever use digital,’’ he said. “I want to feel it. I want to smell it. It’s my second hand.”

Before we parted, I asked Christophe to summarize the meaning of his work. “Death represents the loss of knowledge and time,” he answered. “Photography holds time and keeps knowledge alive.”

Christophe von Hohenberg’s upcoming book, Another Planet, will be published this spring. Visit his website at: christophevonhohenberg.com.