He's famous for his photographs of Kate Moss in a wheelbarrow, Vivienne Westwood stark naked, and Victoria Beckham in a Marc Jacobs bag, but Juergen Teller's new show at London's ICA also shows a more personal side to the German fashion and art photographer. His most recent series of photographs, which he refers to as "a love letter" to his mother, show her in the local woods near to Teller's childhood home in Erlangen, Germany. "It was my mum's idea," says Teller. "I wanted to photograph the forest and she said, 'Can I come?' So we walked together and we chatted."
Titled Irene im Wald (2012), the ordinary-looking photographs of his mum, which have never been published before, show her walking through the trees or in a wigwam of cut branches and sitting on a bench. They will be mounted along one wall with an autobiographical text by Teller. He explains how his mum sent him £200 as he was desperate for money shortly after he arrived in London in 1986, which he then blew on Japanese sushi. He talks about his determination to succeed in London, his father's lack of faith in him and his subsequent suicide, and a TV series starring Nastassja Kinski who kisses a teacher in a wood, which fuelled his love of forests.
Teller was inspired to photograph the woods where he grew up after turning his lens on the Suffolk landscape a few years ago, where he and his art-dealer wife, Sadie Coles, with his two children Lola and Ed, rent a country house. "I had been going back to Germany and photographing the environment that is close to my childhood but I could never photograph the forest for some reason. Somehow, these landscape pictures in Suffolk opened up the trees in Germany for me."
This show will also include his fashion and commercial photography from the 1990s, as well as some family portraits from his book Keys to the House last year, including his daughter Lola wading out of a lake in 2010 with a shotgun in Suffolk on her birthday.
"I also wrote a love letter to my wife and family when I photographed our three-week holiday in Japan, which was published in my book, Ed in Japan," says Teller. "It's harder to photograph someone you know very well because they question your authority. My mum says, 'Why do you want me to sit here? Haven't you taken enough photographs?' My children will goof around doing silly faces but it is very rewarding because it brings you together. Rather than play backgammon, you can do something creative together."
Juergen Teller: Woo, ICA, London SW1 (ica.org.uk) 23 January to 17 March