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Shock & Awe

Shock & Awe

Chris von Wangenheim

The sexy, savage images of Chris von Wangenheim

Courtesy of Chris von Wangenheim/Rizzoli

In the 1970s, fashion photography was a decadent demimonde. Perhaps it was the sexual revolution (or the drugs) that pushed the era's top lensmen, like Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, to go right for the jugular. However, the work of Berlin-born Chris von Wangenheim, whose lesser-known oeuvre is collected in the new monograph Gloss, is even more brutal. "Newton images foreshadow an event about to happen, while Bourdin's images are crime scenes of something that already has," says the book's co-editor Roger Padilha. "In Chris's work, the action is happening right in front of your eyes."

Von Wangenheim's highly erotic photos are envelope-pushers even by today's standards: A topless Susan Sarandon brandishing a switchblade, supermodels devoured by dogs, and his muse Gia Carangi, captured naked with another woman, make for gasp-inducing vignettes. He remained a fearless visionary until a fatal car crash in 1981 -- which, if von Wangenheim could have, he'd have probably turned into a fierce Vogue fashion spread.Gloss Book Chris von WangenheimSusan Sarandon (left); Grace Jones (right)

Gloss: The Work of Chris von Wangenheim by Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha, $85, available at (out September 15)

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