Michel Comte has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, worked for all the major international magazines and put his stamp on numerous international advertising campaigns.
Born in Zurich in 1954, with a compulsively acquisitive eye and self-taught as a photographer, Comte enjoyed a meteoric rise after being discovered by Karl Lagerfeld when he moved to Paris in the late 70s as a trained fine art restorer.
The 80s naturally drew him to New York, and he later took residence in Los Angeles. Comte says of his restless persona: “I have always lived on the edge. I probably inherited that from my grandfather”, referring to Swiss aviation pioneer Alfred Comte.
For over 30 years, he created iconic advertising, fielding commissions from labels like Armani, Ungaro, Ferrari, Dolce & Gabbana, Nike, as well as assignments from Vogue, Vanity Fair and all the major publications. In later years, he trained his lens on travel photography and evocative landscapes of his beloved Engadin, as well as war reportage, taking on photo assignments for the International Red Cross as well as his own Water Foundation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sudan and Cambodia.
His body of work is both vast and distinctive. Intensely private, Michel Comte remained an enigma, even to those who worked frequently with him. He is both auteur and voyeur, driven to capture what Sargent called ‘the animal in the sitter’ more by compulsion than commission. His iconic portraits from the world of art, music, film, sports and fashion all carry that signature style: an essential ability to conjure in the sitter something so spontaneous, intimate and authentic, that it connects with the viewer for all time. Not one to discount the value of experience over affinity, he is famously quoted to have responded deadpan to the question of how long it takes him to perfect a great spontaneous shot: “30 years and 5 minutes”.
Read curator comments on Comte (2010):
Walter Keller: Photographic Crescendo
Alessandro Luigi Perna: Michel Comte: Photographer of the Soul
Serena Baccaglini: Michel Comte: “The best image of the soul is the human body”