States of Flux

We visit actress Charlotte Taschen on a rainy day in her future L.A. home. She talks about what it was like growing up as the daughter of one of the most iconic art collectors and art book publishers and her move from Germany to Hollywood.
Words & Images: Ger Ger

"My first time in America was at the age of nine or ten. My dad took my sister, brother and me on a road trip. I barely spoke English at the time. We were staying at a nice hotel in L.A. I remember the pool, eating angel hair pasta, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and drinking strawberry smoothies."

Charlotte Taschen, born and raised in Cologne, Germany, spent her childhood splitting time between her mother's house during the week and her father's on the weekends. In 2012, at the age of 22, she decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue acting. In 1980, before Charlotte was born, her father Benedikt Taschen founded TASCHEN, today one of the most successful international publishers in the world with illustrated publications on a range of themes, including art, architecture, design, film, photography, pop culture, and lifestyle.

"My parents have been separated ever since I can remember. And both of my parents have other kids as well. So I have four half siblings and two full siblings. My mom was always in Cologne, and on the weekends she would see her partner outside of Berlin. She had a long-distance relationship for 25 years. My dad lived in Germany full-time until I was 14. At the time I knew what my dad was doing was very unusual. I went to a public school and did things the other kids were doing. Yet my life with my family was always very different."

"I remember feeling a constant urge to fit in. When I was six my mother had a producer friend who was working on a kids' talk show. He wanted me to be part of it, and a large film crew came to our house. I remember bursting into tears, crying and telling them to leave, because I thought about my friends in school seeing it. That idea terrified me. Obviously, it is so much more intriguing to not fit in. Realizing that now is interesting."

"Imagine a nine-year-old friend coming over, and there is a big penis painting [Ilona's Asshole by Jeff Koons] right in front of her. I remember feeling embarrassed when friends came over and feeling a bit shy about things. One time my dad introduced us to Koons and [his then-wife Ilona Staller, a.k.a.] Cicciolina. My brother was shaking her hand, and our friends, my sister and me were teasing him: 'Oh, you've touched her hand.'

Growing up my brother and I were always kind of a pack, and my older sister was always a bit ahead of us and doing her own thing. I'm really close to all of my siblings. Today my sister lives in Milan, is about to move to London, and is the CEO of the company, running it with my dad. She started working for my dad when she had her baby six years ago. She is very good at it. My older brother is a gallerist based in Cologne. He specializes in contemporary painting and mostly photography. He has a really distinctive eye."

"My dad talked openly to us about the business. We would be driving in the car on the weekends, and he would tell us about numbers. I didn't know what they meant back then, but I do remember being terrified hearing those large figures.

He would also not shy away from exposing us to people. We met countless interesting people. I met Billy Wilder when I was nine. I wish I would have known back then who he was. [laughing]

I started in theater at the age of 10 just for fun when my friend told me about an acting class that was supposed to be cool — adults and kids mixed. I remember hearing some of the other girls say they would like to be an actress or model, and I would judge them for that. It was just a hobby for me. I recall my drama teacher saying 'I really think you have something special, and you should try to take it further.' When I was 18 I continued acting on the side, but also started studying economics."

"Only after receiving my degree I realized that acting was really what I wanted to pursue. It was the only thing I always kept coming back to. So I ultimately decided to move to Los Angeles.

My parents never told me what to do and gave me a lot of freedom. I always had their support and love. Strangely enough I still feel like I'm just starting to go into myself and into really figuring out who I am, what I am and what I want."

"L.A. really has its own culture. You come here and nobody cares about you. Nobody cares about anything you've been doing in Europe.

With my dad we were traveling a lot. The first time we came to America it was probably for 2-3 weeks. We went to Carney's all the time. I haven't been there for 10 years maybe, but that's what we used to do, especially when traveling with my dad who doesn't cook. Back then it was really exciting. We would come here quite often. We would also go to Palm Springs and the desert looking at a lot of architecture. My dad had us around him all the time, doing whatever he wanted to do, but keeping in mind that it was interesting for us as well. He appreciated growing up that way himself, being treated as an adult rather than a kid. We saw a lot of these amazing midcentury homes. We were just kind of dragged along. We loved it.

Then my dad bought a house here 20 years ago. He knew Los Angeles, liked the climate and openness, and loved the kind of people Los Angeles attracts. He started to spend more time here when I was 14, at a time when he also married my stepmother who is American. For me coming here certainly was easier in many ways — to have grounding and family here. I sometimes wonder how much it can also tie you up in a way. Other people who come here by themselves can entirely reinvent themselves. Aside from acting, during the last couple of years I was also helping my father with a few things in the company. The TASCHEN gallery we had in L.A. was an incredible opportunity for me, as well as a great platform to meet people."

"With my mom, we spent half of the summers in the countryside east of Germany. Today I wouldn't even know how to live in Germany, but a lot of people I love are there. My life in Germany is tied to what I was doing in high school. I would need to spend more time there and see how it feels. In the beginning in America I was craving a bit for the European summer and how pleasant it was. You start the day, and then you just live it. In L.A. I'm always on call. Everything is non-stop, but anything is possible."

"The books were always around. It is certainly an essential part of who I am.

What we do at TASCHEN is the illustrated book. The focus is on the illustrations and pictures. Growing up I would also read novels. Especially in the summer. I would read for hours. I associate certain places and holidays with books I was reading. Today I try to be very disciplined with reading. I want to relaunch a reading club I started with two friends in 2016. The idea is for the members to sit down, put the phone away, and read. We choose a theme, and everyone reads a different book that relates to the theme. 'Leaders' was one of our themes during the elections."

Charlotte Taschen lives in Los Angeles and goes back to Germany a few times a year. She appears in the films The Have-Nots, Frank and Ava, and Angeles Woo's martial arts action short Nuts. Most recently Charlotte was shooting Velvet Buzzsaw, opposite Rene Russo, directed by Dan Gilroy. She is proficient in KuTaeKaDo and holds a black belt in Taekwondo. Charlotte recently returned from Japan, where she was doing Japanese weapons training. Currently in Los Angeles she is studying Wushu, Chinese kung fu.

We photographed Charlotte in her newly purchased house in Los Angeles during the restoration in Spring 2018. When finished, the Miller Fong -designed, midcentury, Chinese-style residence is set to become her new home.

Wearing: Dresses by Aliona Kononova, Erdem, Oscar de la Renta Clothing Set and Dress by DÉSIRÉEKLEIN Bag and Dress by MaryMe-JimmyPaul Jumpsuits by Maria Stanley, Paradise Ranch Designs Shirt by Raga Man Belt by Marni Socks by Muji Jewelry by Akola Shoes by Givenchy, Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Prada, The Palatines

Photography & Creative Direction: GER GER
Fashion Assistant: KARLA PICHARDO
Photo Assistants: SEAN MARTIN & LIZ ABRAMS
Production: LA K50