Friday, August 16, 2013

Helmut Newton

 The other night I watched Helmut By June, a HBO documentary about one of my favorite photographers: Helmut Newton. The film is filmed and directed by Helmut Newton’s wife June Newton, (who's also a gifted photographer, working under the alias Alice Springs) from "home" videos she took while joining him on assignments and while filming him alone.

If you're remotely interested in fashion photography, there's very little chance you didn't come across works of Helmut Newton. Hell, chances are if you were not born blind, you came across his images. He's one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.

The film gives us a fascinating look into both his work and personal life. Being shot by his wife, it feels quite an intimate film.
It's amazing to see this genius of the fashion imagery, a man that earned the nickname "The King of Kink", looking like a Jewish pensioner from Florida, photographing supermodels in exotic locations or elegantly wearing a bathrobe and taking a siesta.

Elsa Peretti, New York 1975, Helmut Newton

 His photos are very cinematic, mysterious & sexy. In the film he says that for him fashion photos need to look like a scene from a movie, a snapshot or anything but a fashion photography. And indeed his photos  depict scenes from a naughty fantasy involving some mystery, some humor, some danger and violence and always some amazonian women.

"His fantasies are extraordinary. Anybody can have a fantasy but not anybody can have a Helmut Newton fantasy. His are richer, more explicit, less obvious, more exotic, quirkier than yours or mine or anybody else's. He's a genius of fantasy."
- Milton Glaser 

He may be named the "King of Kink", but compared to photographers like Guy Bourdin and the more contemporary Terry Richardson to me his photos do not project any malice. Women in his photos are frequently naked, but seldom vulnerable.

Thierry Mugler, Monte Carlo 1998, Helmut Newton 
"Feminist critics often condemned Newton’s suggestive and risqué work—much to his delight—but the women in his photographs do not in general appear to be victims; more often, they are the powerful and manipulative perpetrators of some dark crime."
                                                                                              - Voguepedia 

I had the amazing fortune of being in Rome this spring, during an exhibition of his work at Palazzo delle Esposizioni. The exhibition consisted of 200 photos from his first three books. In those photos he managed to explore so many fantasies and fetishes, and after 30+ years his images still look fresh - it just feels that he's done it all. Seeing his photos in the museum is so much more impressive. Just like consuming photos in a printed form is just better than consuming them on-line digitally (or maybe i'm just old), seeing them  up large is a whole different experience. Walking around Rome and encountering this by mistake was pretty Awesome!

"I'm not an intellectual I take pictures."
-Helmut Newton 


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