After a basic school education he worked as a window dresser for the Karstadt and Horten department stores in Duisburg. At 18, he moved to Switzerland. Eight months later, he went from Lucerne to Berlin and took evening courses at the Academy of Arts. He hitchhiked to Arles in the footsteps of his idol, Vincent van Gogh. After several months in Arles, he continued through to Spain and Morocco, a journey that took him two years.
Returning to Germany, he studied Free Painting at the College of Art in Krefeld (North Rhine-Westphalia). In 1969, while still a student, he exhibited his work for the first time at the Galerie Denise René - Hans Mayer. Concept Art marked his last period of interest in art. In 1971 his interest turned toward photography and for two years he worked as the assistant to the Düsseldorf-based photographer, Hans Lux.
Peter Lindbergh moved to Paris in 1978 and started working internationally for Vogue, first the Italian, then the English, French, German, and American Vogue, later for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Allure, and Rolling Stone. His mostly black-and-white photographs, implement a pictorial language that takes its lead from early German cinema and from the Berlin art scene of the 1920s.
Lindbergh photographed the January 1990 Vogue cover that featured Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington. The portrait inspired singer George Michael to cast those models in the similarly iconic music video for his song "Freedom '90".
His first book, 10 Women by Peter Lindbergh, a black-and-white portfolio of ten top contemporary models, was published in 1996 and had sold more than 100,000 copies as of 2008.
Twice he has shot the Pirelli calendar, in 1996 and 2002. The latter, which featured actresses instead of models for the first time, was shot on the back lot of Universal Studios, and was described by Germaine Greer as "Pirelli's most challenging calendar yet." 
There have been dozens of exhibitions featuring Peter Lindbergh’s work around the world since his photography was included in the Victoria and Albert Museum's Shots of Style exhibition in London in 1985. After their Paris debut, Comme des Garçons exhibited a solo show of photographs by Peter Lindbergh at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1986. Peter Lindbergh's Smoking Women, first shown in the Galerie Gilbert Brownstone in Paris in 1992, travelled to Tokyo's Bunkamura Gallery in 1994 and the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt in 1996. The same year, prompted by the reaction to the 1994 show, the Bunkamura Museum of Art accorded Peter Lindbergh a retrospective, which broke the previous attendance records set by the Jacques Henri Lartigue and Leni Riefenstahl retrospectives held by the museum.
In 1997, Berlin's Hamburger Bahnhof showed Peter Lindbergh: Images of Women, which toured museums in Hamburg, Milan, Rome, and Vienna in 1998, followed by showings at the International Photography Festival in Japan in 1999 and 2000. Irina Antonova brought Images of Women to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow in 2002, making Peter the first photographer exhibited by the Pushkin.
Peter Lindbergh was the first photographer to incorporate storylines into his fashion editorials. Another iconic event, a photographic story with Helena Christensen as a Martian for Italian Vogue in 1990 was the beginning of narrative used in fashion photography.
The Metropolitan Museum showed the exhibition Models As Muse in 2009. In 2010, his exhibition, On Street, at the C/O (Berlin) counted 90,000 visitors.
In April and May 2011, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China exhibited The Unknown, Lindbergh’s gigantic installation, which was curated by Jerome Sans. It attracted more than 70,000 visitors.
Peter Lindbergh has made a number of films, including the 1991 feature-length documentary, Models - The Film, shot in New York with the Supermodels.
Inner Voices (1999), a thirty-minute drama documentary examining self-expression in method acting, won the prize for Best Documentary at the International Festival of Cinema in Toronto in 2000. In 2001, Lindbergh directed an experimental half-hour film for Channel 4 about his friend Pina Bausch, entitled Pina Bausch - Der Fensterputzer.
Shown off at Cannes in 2007, his latest film Everywhere at Once, co-directed with Holly Fisher, had its world premiere at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Narrated by Jeanne Moreau, this haunting, vaguely troubling film consists of refilmed Lindbergh photographs, many of them unpublished, interwoven with excerpts from Tony Richardson's film Mademoiselle.
Lindbergh's work is inspired by Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Eisenstein's Potemkin, Lang's Depression-era images, as well as by Lindbergh's own 1950s childhood, living across the Rhine from the foreboding Krupp steelworks in the industrial Ruhrland city of Duisburg.
- 10 Women by Peter Lindbergh Foreword by Karl Lagerfeld, Peter Lindbergh (1996), ISBN 978-3-8238-1416-0
- Peter Lindbergh: Portfolio Interview by Dr. Antonio Ria, Peter Lindbergh (1999), ISBN 2-84323-108-6
- Peter Lindbergh: Stories Foreword by Wim Wenders, Peter Lindbergh (2002), ISBN 1-892041-64-2
- Peter Lindbergh: Images of Women Introduction by Martin Harrison, Peter Lindbergh (2004), ISBN 978-3-8296-0143-6
- Peter Lindbergh: Untitled 116 by Peter Lindbergh (2006), ISBN 3-8296-0179-4
- Peter Lindbergh: On Street by Peter Lindbergh (2010), ISBN 978-3-8296-0506-9
- Peter Lindbergh: The Unknown by Peter Lindbergh (2011), ISBN 978-3-8296-0544-1
Awards and nominations
In both 1995 and 1997 he was named Best Photographer at the International Fashion Awards in Paris. In 1995 he became an Honorary Member of the German Art Directors Club. In 1996 he received the Raymond Loewy Foundation Award. In 2005 he was awarded the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fashion Photography.
Lindbergh and his first wife, Astrid, moved to Paris where their three children, Benjamin, Jeremy, and Simon were born.
- "Biographical overview", peterlindbergh.net. Accessed 16 November 2011.
- Ian Philips, "The Image Maker" The Independent, 14 September 1997.
- Engelen, Mart, Interview with legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh, Antwerp and Paris 2012, #59 Magazine, 954 
- "Peter Lindbergh", in Photo Box: Bringing the Great Photographers into Focus (London: Thames & Hudson, 2009; ISBN 978-0-500-54384-9), p.414.
- Peter Lindbergh: Images of Women" (Germany: Snoeck, 2008; ISBN 9783936859898), p.95.
- Leah Chernikoff, From the Glossy Archives: US Vogue, November 1988 (Anna’s First Issue As EIC), Fashionista.com, 8 December 2010
- Naomi, Linda, Tatjana, Christy, Cindy by Lindbergh,1990, Los Angeles Times. 1990
- "January 1990". Vogue Magazine Archive. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
- Rogers, Patrick (August 2015). "Freedom!", Vanity Fair pp 144-147.
- Pit Lane News, Pirelli Calendar, Fastdates.com
- Germaine Greer, "Get your kit on", Guardian, 13 November 2001
- "Shots of style"
- "Peter Lindbergh for Comme des Garçons"
- Peter Lindbergh:The Unknown, Ucca.org
- film presentation on the Tribeca film festival website
- Peter Lindbergh, Fashion Photographers, Jewelry Accessories site, accessed May 17, 2012