Von Unwerth’s path—from an unstable upbringing in Germany, to becoming a knife-thrower’s and clown’s assistant in the circus, to launching a modeling career after being scouted on her first day of university, to taking on more creative agency as a photographer herself—speaks to a restless and confident spirit that translates palpably to her images. Von Unwerth advocates for a rejection of objectification, allowing her models the freedom to be kinky, playful, or childlike, and resulting in works such as Double Trouble, New York
(2008) or Swanky! Spanky!
(2011), in which girls romp in a world seemingly devoid of men. Of this attitude, von Unwerth explains
, “I also shoot men, but my work is more about women. Men are more like accessories.” Her most famous works are of empowered women, including Kate Moss, Monica Bellucci, Carla Bruni, and Claudia Schiffer—who featured in her career-launching Guess photoshoot—in which the frisky sexual presence for which she is known is visible in full force.