In the resulting images, Spears’ kohl-lined eyes glare into the camera, daring you to tell her she can’t do whatever she wants. Like a fiercely feminine force of nature, her hair whips around her bare shoulders, her gloved hands resting casually on her hips. She is a woman who – despite what we know now about her father’s control – looks thoroughly, joyfully in control of her image.
“Britney was, and still is, amazing,” says the photographer. “One of my absolute favourite shoots was for her Blackout album cover [in 2007]. It was in New York, she had just shaved her hair, and arrived, put this wig on, and immediately started posing. She has such a great stage presence, playing the bad girl, and she wasn’t scared to be a little provocative. When we finished, she left to pick up her children from school, just like nothing happened.”
Decades later, album covers are more likely to show up on Spotify than on CD shelves, but despite the dominance of digital and social media, in 2018 Von Unwerth launched her own glossy magazine Von. “It is sad to see more and more magazines close down,” she laments. “They were once the epitome of fashion. It was great when you had the opportunity to create a real story with amazing models and styling. It was the way to create real stars because the public saw them in all the magazines, shot by many different photographers, on covers and in different campaigns. Today, stars are created on the runway or by social media. I do get a bit nostalgic about the time of the supermodel and that time in fashion.”