The heel of a patent leather stiletto pierces an apple. A model in nylons and a neat red bob, surrounded by hooks heavy with raw meat, shivers in a warehouse. Steven Klein (Phaidon), the photographer’s first monograph, drips with his signature juxtapositions: sexuality and danger amid the bourgeois and industrial. Klein is an image maker in every sense of the term, especially when the sense is celebrity: Who else could have created the instantly iconic images of Brad Pitt’s bare Fight Club–era buttocks, Lady Gaga in a red latex nun habit, Kim Kardashian wearing nothing but a Prada bag?
One of Klein’s most fruitful collaborations has been with the queen of iconography herself: Madonna. “It is rare to meet another human who is tuned in to your frequency,” she tells VF of their partnership. “That is why our collaborations are often disturbing but always epic.” Their first project, the 2003 exhibition X-STaTIC Pro=CeSS, put a bizarro twist on her modern dance background; since then the pair has created magazine editorials, ad campaigns, and a series of films, including for her Re-Invention and Confessions world tours. “Twenty years later we’ve managed to do so many projects together,” Klein says. “We start out with the core idea and then we execute it in a big way.”
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