John Waters curates and captions a never-before-seen selection of Karlheinz Weinberger images.
When I visited Karlheinz Weinberger’s apartment studio in Zurich in 1999, right before the entire art world seemed to discover his vintage work, he told me that during the ‘60s the Swiss police had raided his home and seized supposedly “pornographic pictures”. But right before the cops hauled the photography away as evidence, they whispered “keep the ones you like the best.” I was always amazed at this humanitarian gesture by the authorities and like to think that the touchingly innocent and sexually beautiful photographs featured here are exactly those choices.
My great friend and star of many of my films, Mink Stole, recently commented after looking at old photos of herself, “I was cute then and I never even realized it.” Were any of Weinberg’s guys aware of their sexual power at the time? Can you be naïve if you have a big dick? Is it possible to be intelligent while wearing a headband? Who needs intellectual stimulation when you’re getting your naked picture taken? Nobody wants to talk about abstract ideas when they’re nude.
These alternative “models” must have been thrilled that Weinberger not only spotlighted their unbelievably brave fashion flair but gave them a safe house of exhibitionism to strut their stuff and feel good about themselves. Their parents certainly weren’t taking pictures of them dressed like this, much less without clothes. Imagine what the neighbors had to say! Yet nobody could have predicted that this motley gang’s sartorial splendor would inspire international fashion designers to copy Weinberger’s audacious documentation decades later. These crackpot rebels should feel proud when they look back today at their youth in these photographs. Not once do they look silly. These guys were art and they never even knew it.