Photography on the Edge

A new retrospective in Brussels celebrates 30 years of Michel Comte, including photographs of Carla Bruni, Penelope Cruz, Jeremy Irons, and Catherine Deneuve. VIEW OUR NSFW GALLERY.

Michel Comte

One of the best fashion photographers and portraitists working today, Michel Comte has worked extensively for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Interview as well as for some of the biggest luxury brand names, such as Armani, Lancome, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferrari, and Jaguar. His portraits of Julian Schnabel, Carla Bruni, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, and Mike Tyson have been widely acclaimed, while his photo reports for the International Committee of the Red Cross have received respect from workers in the field and his peers.

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Born in Zurich in 1954 and trained as an art restorer, Comte got his big break in 1979, when he was hired to shoot ads for the fashion house Chloé, which was then under the creative spell of Karl Lagerfeld. Self-trained as a photographer, he moved to New York in 1981 and soon established himself in the U.S. as a one of the most talented cameramen in the commercial realm. Over the past five years, Comte has been the subject of numerous museum and gallery shows, and his work is now on view in a retrospective exhibition, which runs through August 1, at Young Gallery in Brussels.

His best fashion and editorial work is featured in the Young Gallery show. There’s a portrait of a blindfolded, praying Jeff Koons, shot for L’Uomo Vogue in 1992; a striking image of a nude Helena Christensen, frozen in flight, made for Vogue Italia in 1993; a charming picture of a vivacious Yves Saint Laurent, caught in his doorway while holding a bulldog, that appeared in W in 1992; and multiple views of women seductively smoking cigarettes, including Daryl Hannah, Naomi Campbell, and Gisele Bündchen, that were shot for a variety of publications.

From visions of femme fatales to men of mystery, Michel Comte has a knack for creating edgy scenes and an uncanny ability to get some of the most notable faces of our time to perform exactly how he wants.

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Paul Laster is the editor of, a contributing editor at and Art Asia Pacific, and a contributing writer at Time Out New York and Art in America.