In Uwe Duettmann's vast collection of images, there's a spread that features a pair of quietly stunning black and white portraits of now-deceased artists. On the right is Andy Warhol, looking blankly at the camera, half his face curtained by white gauze. On the left, shot on the same day, is Joseph Beuys. "Their art is so different," Duettmann points out. "Germans are somewhat critical, take time to get warm with people - this is like Beuys. Then there's Warhol, with his Pop art, pure color, fresh and simple, but loud. Totally different. I play myself very much between these two different characters, like I'm the puck in ice hockey. It keeps the energy flowing."
Energy spews like wildfire in all sorts of directions in the 42-year-old Duettmann's oeuvre, comprised of classic portraiture and still lifes as well as more dazzling, hyperreal scenarios often inflected with offbeat humor. He got off to a good start mastering this wide range of approaches when he assisted several top shooters in his native Germany, and he even spent a year working with Annie Leibovitz. A major ad presence in Europe, where he's a mainstay at awards shows and has also directed spots, in the past six months Duettmann has steadily raised his profile in the U.S. Much of that time has been spent making a dent in sheet metal, shooting for Lincoln, Cadillac and Corvette. (He even photographed the abstract auto image on our cover this month.) Cars have also stood by him well overseas, where he's shot for Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and the Smart Car, in a gorgeous campaign out of Springer Jacoby that boasts a cool fashion sensibility.
That's not to say that the warm-blooded don't benefit via Duettmann's lens. In fact, he says people are his favorite subjects. His campaigns for Nike exploit spare lighting to emphasize the sculptural qualities of the human form. His recent work for Bulgarian telephone company MTel applies a variety of techniques, ranging from a documentary look to a stylized fashion approach , to characters of all shapes and sizes. "A lot of times it's not so much about thinking," he explains of his creative impetus. "It's about having the right feeling. Most of the stuff I do comes from the gut." However, straying from an agency's goal is never an issue, he insists. "One thing I'm very sure of is, if someone wants to achieve something and can describe it very clearly, I can supply it. I get rid of all the things that aren't necessary and hit the target right in the middle."