Helmut Newton was a prolific, widely imitated fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos were a mainstay of Vogue and other publications.
Last update at 24 · 01 · by milo
Helmut Newton pushed the boundaries of the fashion industry with his erotically charged often menacing imagery.
The few men in Helmut Newton’s Œuvre remain passive and anonymous, like crash-test dummies dressed for the occasion. The rectilinear view of a woman lying with her lover beside a black Citroen. The man is concealed by the woman, whose back is to the camera. As usual, the woman is naked except for her red elevator shoes which gleam like lipstick. The ground is covered with dead leaves, an ursatz which heightens the romanticism of the image. The passive man, still wearing his suit, becomes a bi-gender surrogate for the photographer who, by declension, becomes you, the viewer.
While Newton says his work is all documentary and never fantasy, always based on experience, this can be discounted as political modesty.
It must be noted that not all these photos are successful: some are merely weird, succumb to the infantilism of perverse sexual decorum. The documentary gestalt overrides the surrealism, challenges the notion of art. Hints of bi-sexual adventurism adds to the general vibe of old Euro decadence in a contemporary ethos.
Newton’s work has has been exhibited worldwide and featured in magazines and numerous mongraphs. The preservation and presentation of his work is managed by the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, which was established in 2003.
Skillfully using symbolism and anti-fashion accessories such as medical harnesses and equestrian riding gear, he pushes the envelope of erotic style and dramatization. Fashion takes on a dangerous edge as it reconciles objective ugliness with exotic beauty. How does he get away with it? Paris is the right place at the right time, a relaxed cultural oasis in which the new pornographers are already de-constructing the visual and literary arts.
Maurice Gerodias of the Olympia Press publishes Pauline Reage’s The Story of O about a beautiful though masochistic Parisian photographer who becomes the willing sex slave of a group of male libertines at a mysterious chateau and Helmut, with a large supply of adventuress Vogue models and movie starlets at his disposal, takes his cue.
Helmut Newton reveal the secrets
Helmut Newton reminisces erotically, geographically youth and apprenticeship in Berlin, failed photographer and gigolo in Singapore, alien confinement and patriation in Australia, wedding photographer and marriage in Melbourne, breakout and fashion stringer in London, Paris, New York jet-set famous in Monaco and L.A. with sidebars to Berlin, Rome, and places beyond. Politically, strategically, aesthetically Paris is the place that allows him to break the boundaries of conventional fashion illustration.