How Photographer Thierry Le Gouès Defined 1990s Supermodel Style

The French fashion photographer shot legendary photos of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Stephanie Seymour, and more.

Naomi Campbell (powerHouse Books)

French photographer Thierry Le Gouès didn’t need to say a word, but he defined the 1990s nonetheless, leaving in his wake a trail of languorous images—of fashion, flesh, and fantasy. Effortlessly charming, Thierry’s eyes sparkle when he speaks, his memories of his early career every bit as captivating as the pictures themselves.” So reads the introduction to a major profile of the lensman for i-D magazine, a long overdue homage to one of the genre’s lesser known masters.

Kate Moss, Esquire UK — 1993 (powerHouse Books)

Le Gouès began his career shooting for Condé Nast in 1986, and over the ensuing years he parlayed that auspicious start into editorial work ranging from Vogue and l’Uomo Vogue, Lei, Per Lui, Amica, and Marie Claire in Italy; Glamour, Vogue Homme International, and Vogue in France; Arena, Vogue, i-D, The Face, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle in England; and Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, Detour, Interview, Vogue, W, and Flaunt in the United States.

“Figuratively speaking,” his official bio notes, “Thierry’s style may serve as a model for its immediacy and openness of content, an ethic—more than an aesthetic—principle, witnessed in his magazine work and editorial campaigns.” Along the way Le Gouès brought a European sensibility to the “sui generis” 1990s style then being developed by American photographers shooting American supermodels, the newly-minted stars of the fashion world.

Linda Evangelista (powerHouse Books)

Gouès’ website notes that he “helped put the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour, Carla Bruni, Amber Valletta, Eva Herzigová, Kristen McMenamy, Yasmeen Ghauri, Helena Christensen, Tatjana Patitz, and Karen Mudler on the map.”

“Whether imagining Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista as billboard giantesses come to life for Allure, or staging a fashion shoot inside a New York City jail, Thierry created spellbinding vignettes that fused the grandeur of cinema, the gritty intimacy of the street, and the sensual mystery of romance into an intoxicating series of images that are a mesmerising now as they were then,” as i-D notes.

Naomi Campbell (powerHouse Books)

In a beautiful new book from powerHouse titled simply ’90s, no less than Carla Bruni, former First Lady of France, contributed the preface. “While writing this preface, I turn the pages of this beautiful book, and the beauty of the photographs dazzles me; sensual and elegant, powerful and luminous, filled with joy and life, the photos of Thierry Le Gouès take us elsewhere,” she writes.

Bruni adds that, “Thierry’s eye on his models is very special: imbued with delicacy and empathy, the shots are simple and joyful; we laugh a lot. His talent is multiple—both sophisticated and primitive, and at the same time, timeless.

Tatjana Patitz, Allure, Los Angeles — 1994 (powerHouse Books)

His images are always strong—even the most delicate of them exudes a granitic starkness… and yet, in each of these images slips a suspended movement, a smile, a ray of light, a gesture, a moment of life. And that is what one feels when leafing through this book: all the strength and emotion of his talent.” Summing up, she cites his “passion, his energy, his force… and his constant search for grace and elegance.”

PowerHouse notes that Le Gouès was “also one of the first fashion photographers to feature exclusively models of African heritage and ethnicity; the success of his first book, ‘Soul’”—also published by powerHouse, in 1998—“featuring Black models, posed strikingly, nude, with skin paint treatment, led to a multiyear international campaign for Nike and featured top American athletes. His later projects on Cuban street fashion and sports culture (Popular, and Havana Boxing Club, both from powerHouse) also influenced later ad campaigns and editorials.”

(powerHouse Books)

The roster of Le Gouès’ high-profile, international advertising campaigns includes Nike, Levi’s, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi, Moschino, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Pierre Cardin, Cartier, and Paco Rabanne; and he has photographed celebrities including Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Pete Doherty, Harrison Ford, Isaac Hayes, Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, Neymar, and Sharon Stone. And we have the feeling that at the age of 60 he is just getting started. 

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Maxim magazine.