From Vera to Veruschka

View the transformation of a supermodel.

Culture » From Vera to Veruschka

From Vera to Veruschka
Veruschka. Photograph courtesy of Rizzoli New York.

From Vera to Veruschka

View the transformation of a supermodel.

“You have big feet,” she recalls being told by her first agent. “You are too tall and have too much of a baby face.” It was the early ’60s, and Veruschka was not yet the one-name über model whom Richard Avedon would proclaim “the most beautiful woman in the world.” How Vera von Lehndorff, an impoverished art student from East Prussia, became the legendary Veruschka of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up and the face of an era owes a great deal to the images she created early in her career with the late photographer Johnny Moncada. Over the course of a year in Italy, the two collaborated on thousands of pictures. Some of them appeared in print, but Moncada kept the vast majority sealed in a trunk, where they lay unseen for some 40 years. Now Moncada’s daughter, an art dealer in Rome, has published many of them in Veruschka: From Vera to Veruschka ($75, rizzoliusa.com). In this lavish volume, the six-foot preternaturally long-limbed blonde—who adopted the more exotic-sounding moniker when these images were shot—reveals her nascent talent for transformation. She is a hippie, a coiffed socialite, a bikinied Amazon, an Alice in Wonderland–styled naïf. “Johnny was the first photographer who let me feel relaxed,” says Veruschka, 74, who lives in Berlin, where she works as a visual artist. “People were always telling me to ‘look happy,’ but Johnny never did. He let me be myself.” And by letting Vera be herself, he helped coax Veruschka into the world, one step of her size-13 feet at a time.