History of Photography



Introduction  
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary









 


THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES 1827-1991

 

 

1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991

 

see also:

Newton Helmut




Chapter 27  (part I)

 


1981
 


 
 Newton Helmut
 

 


They're Coming!
 

Ice-Cold Self-

Consciousness

The photograph marked a turning point - and it was, of course, intended to be provocative. In fact, not until 1981 did the French Vogue feel ready to publish Helmut Newton's diptych Sie kommen! as an erotic metaphor for the changing image of woman.

 

This time there were no Italian gardens or fin-de-siecle hotel rooms, no beaches on the Cote d'Azur, no promenades, no New York apartments with a view, or well-appointed rooms in the 16th Arrondissement. In their place, only the sober, empty chamber of a professional studio. That was unusual for Helmut Newton, who loved to stage scenes, especially in settings that exuded life and vitality for at least he did at one time). His photographs, which many believe to have been schooled in the German cinema between the wars, were sometimes set even on bridges or in underground passageways, in train stations or airports. It all depended on what Newton's fat notebook - that irreplaceable store room bursting with ideas that have feasted on reality - proposed. Newton was a realist - if one accepts the idea that dreams, desires, and fantasies also belong to the inventory of reality. But his inventory had one important difference from the world of things that surround us: namely, one does not need a drawer for them. Helmut Newton provided images for those forces that move the world beneath the skin, as it were - our collective passions, fantasies, suppressed desires, and sublime wishes. And he did this not for the sake of the public, but for his own sake. If he had concerned himself about what the public might like, he would never have created an-other picture, he said. "No, I do only what pleases me." Helmut Newton was a gardener of our secret desires. And without doubt, he was the best-known gardener of the kind, and was therefore automatically the most controversial botanist of our collective longings. He was a latter-day pupil of Freud, whose medium was of course not the couch, but the camera. Whether small format or 6 x 6-inch, whether ring flash or daylight -technical data are of little help in mapping the rich idea-landscape of a Helmut Newton. He created a cosmos enclosed within itself, subject to its own rules, which Newton, with his aversion to all theories, never attempted to organize into a program, but which nonetheless allow themselves to be distilled in retrospect. Newton's "film stills", his frozen scenes, are clearly artificial, but at the same time thoroughly consistent with the interior world created by the photographer; the scenes revolve around power and submission, around force and passion, seduction, pleasure, and physical love. His arrangement of his realm is unmistakably vertical: there is no sense of egalitarian togetherness among his figures, but rather clear hierarchies of power, although - and we will return to this point later - the woman is clearly given the determining role. Boots and whips, saddles and spurs, German shepherds, chains, high heels, are recurring symbols in a complex system of visual symbols set always against mirrors and broad corridors, stairs and balconies that rise to dizzying heights, swimming pools and bridge railings: in other words, flight and fall, plummeting and death are always at least implicated in Newton's pictorial world.


Helmut Newton
They're Coming!

1981

 

Fashion as an excuse for something else

Helmut Newton loved to arrange scenes and thus to achieve absolute control over his picture. Moreover, the writer Michael Stoeber finds this to have been a tendency throughout the artist's life. Anyone who, like Newton, has been cheated out of a life plan - however it may be defined - in the course of time compensates for the loss if possible by searching for some form of "absolute control over his own life." Born the son of a Berlin button-factory owner in 1920, Newton left - that is, felt compelled to leave - Germany at age eighteen. His decision proved correct, as the fate of his photography teacher Yva in Auschwitz demonstrates, even though both his journey to Australia and his entry into the field of professional photography were difficult. In the early 1960s, Newton returned to Europe, where he found a congenial platform for his work, particularly with the French Vogue under its courageous editor-in-chief, Francine Crescent. Note well: at this point in time, moral boundaries were still quite narrow. Nevertheless, the unmistakable signs of change were beginning to emerge - at first (cautiously) in Ed van der Eisken's volume of photography, Love in Saint Cermain-des-Pres, in 1956, and later (openly) in the much-cited 'sexual revolution1 around 1968. In a certain sense, Helmut Newton was, or became, a part of this movement. On the one hand, he and the pictorial world he created profited from the increasingly liberal morality of the age. On the other hand, his constant exploration of the possibilities also led to an expansion of the limits of tolerance. Newton thus simultaneously functioned as a catalyzer and an exploiter of the development.

Helmut Newton was a fashion photographer - and nothing less than that. He photographed clothes or, as one calls them in the industry, 'collections'. The cut or the fabrics - the 'buttons and bows' in the language of the fashion editors - interested him only peripherally, however. For Newton, fashion was rather a pretext for something else, although - and this makes his work easier - the path from fashion to his passion was not a long one, when one recalls that fashion, in the sense of the age-old game of revealing and concealing, lies also at the core of all sensuality. Newton's visualizations may have been connected with a contract, but they are nonetheless steeped in his personal desires, wishes and dreams, delights and fears. Furthermore, his success only goes to show that his photographs touch the depths of collective longings. Newton translated into pictures that which many hardly dare to think.

The voice whispering to Newton was that of reality. He loaded his creative batteries, so to speak, from everyday life. The artist always insisted that he was little more than a voyeur, a claim which coquettishly borders on understatement, but nonetheless reveals the conceptual core of his photographic work - an art, moreover, which is schooled in life at its fullest, gaudiest, and most pleasurable, or conversely when it radiates on lighter and softer frequencies. Newton's powers of perception were both alert and selective: the "bad boy of photography," as he liked to call himself, picked up the lascivious signals that he then translated into pictures that succeed in being provocative even in an age that is largely without taboos. "I am," as Helmut Newton pointed out, "a good observer of people." That is, he was a seismographer of those waves which people - preferably "cool girls" - emit through gestures, glances, their way of walking, or even their clothing. The street was the costume room for his pictorial ideas, enriched through a bit of haute-vole that transcends the trivial and passes into the fabulous. "The people in my pictures," according to Helmut Newton, who did not at all attempt to hide the parameters of his creations, "have been 'arranged', as on a stage. Nonetheless my pictures are not counterfeit; they reflect what I see in life with my own eyes." In this connection, Newton liked to refer to a photograph titled Eiffel Tower (1974), initially published in White Women - Newton's first book, which was particularly important in laying the groundwork for the later eception of his photographs. "Tower" is a late-evening view into the rear seat of a limousine that has been transformed into a 'bedroom'. A beautiful young blonde woman is lounging In the midst of the black leather cushions; apart from her leather jacket, which is already pulled open, she is wearing only transparent undies embroidered with an Eiffel Tower -images that sing of Helmut Newton's penchant for double meanings and ambiguity, in the words of Klaus Honnef. In the background, an anonymous man has begun to work on her, fumbling with the zipper and helping her out of her high-heeled boots. "The scene," according to Newton, "undoubtedly takes place after work - a business man has a date with his girl friend. He is wearing a blue suit, handsome cufflinks, and drives a black Citroen DS - the typical auto of the bourgeoisie and of civil servants in France. Lying on the seat next to the woman is a copy of the establishment newspaper Le Monde. And what the man is doing before he drives home - he has not yet gotten to the stage of going to a hotel with his girlfriend - is undressing her in the automobile. That hap-pens all day long in the Bois de Boulogne," explained Helmut Newton; "the autos are lined up as in an American lover's lane."


Helmut Newton
They're Coming!
(naked), 1981.
The shot unquestionably ranks among Newton's best known imagesfwm the eighties.
 

 

Basso continuo to his performance with the camera

 

Helmut Newton was fascinated by the idea that hiding under every woman in 'full dress' is a more (or less) well-formed body. Fashion was the theater curtain that must be pulled aside. And possibly - no, certainly - this nakedness, this ceremony, remained something of a basso continuo to his performance with the camera. Already in the mid-1970s, Newton started photographing girls in the Paris Metro: stark naked under a fur coat. An undertaking not entirely without danger, as the photographer admitted. "You can land in jail for something like that, because the Metro has very strict rules." But Newton loved to test the borders of the possible, in daily life as in art - which for him in any case flowed together. That these borders have clearly moved since the 1970s has a good deal to do with Newton himself, as mentioned earlier. Opening the curtain slowly, Newton radically altered our idea of what is allowed and what is forbidden. At the end of this process of development, his models were completely naked - without coat or furs - provided at most with the black stilettos that are a staple of his iconography: "When I look at a woman," said Newton, "my first glance goes to her shoes and I hope that they are high. High heels make a woman very sexy and give her something threatening."






"Beaute -Silhouette 82": double-page spreac French Vogue, November 1981, W. the first publicatior the motif now com monly known as They're Coming!

 

An increasing obsession

 

Helmut Newton was an artist whose work has found its way into the sacred halls of international art museums - which is all the more surprising considering that most of his photographs have a commercial back-ground, and that he did not at all attempt to hide his origins in editing and advertising. Newton succeeded in blurring the distinction between 'free' and 'applied' art for us - just as he himself never took the border seriously. "Whenever I've worked on a commission, whether editorial or advertising, I have always found my inspiration," he admitted. "Not all, but almost all of my best photographs stem from these assignments." Newton's ideas, as Sotheby curator Philippe Garner once noted, were elaborate; they demanded the noblest raw materials and masterly skill from experts - makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists. Newton, in other words, needs a 'back office' that could be offered only by large newspapers and publishing houses, with all the logistic and financial support they provide. Therefore, the humus from which his work grew was the commission - even if not everything thrived in this soil, at least not in the early years. This was a situation that bothered Newton, at least in the official legend. "A dream of a contract," the photographer recalled; "I'm supposed to take photographs in this grand hotel for the magazine Realties. I've got two interesting models, but I've also got a problem: my first book, White Women, is almost done - just a few pictures are missing. For the book, the pictures should be rather bold nudes, but for Realties, 1 need elegant photos to fit in with the character of the magazine. I decided to make two versions: one nude, the other clothed." From then on, Newton admitted, his interest in the opposition between 'naked' and 'dressed' developed more and more into a passion. They're Coming! was published for the first time in the November issue of the French Vogue, and represented naturally the high point, and even in a sense the crowning moment, of a passion which seemed hardly capable of being carried any further. The editor-in-chief Francine Crescent devoted a bold eight pages to Newton's series, a decision which, as Karl Lagerfeld recalls, "placed her job at risk" once again. Admittedly, complete nakedness combined with stilettos is almost part of the basic vocabulary of Newtonian photographic art; one needs only think of Rue Aubriot (1975) or Mannequins quai d'Orsay II from Newton's second book, Sleepless Nights, which twice took up the opposition between 'naked' and 'dressed' (not to mention the artist's explorations of lesbian love, a theme which always intrigued the photographer}. But the one picture was taken under protection of darkness, so to speak, and the other in the seclusion of a salon. Both photographs therefore exude something of an intimacy that Newton's pictorial vision clearly passed beyond -from his Big Nudes to the sequence discussed here. The title They're Coming! - applied to the photographs only after their appearance in Vogue - underlines the resolution behind a nudity that is now 'worn' as a matter of course, but which also and especially signifies vulnerability. Seen in this way, Newton's women of the 1980s are "big nudes" in a double sense: large, strong, goal-oriented, and - whether 'dressed up' or unclothed - ready to conquer the world of men.

 

A horror of too much smoothness, too much perfection

 

The idea of dissolving the opposition between 'naked' and 'clothed' in diptychs is one Newton had already experimented with earlier in Brescia during the summer of 1981, in a sea-side Fascist-style villa. "The same situation, the same woman," recalled Karl Lagerfeld; "once dressed and once naked (but with high heels - for Newton, a woman isn't naked unless she's wearing high heels). The reconstruction is perfect; only one thing could not be replicated - the light. The sun had changed, and the unique hours were gone forever." Helmut Newton learned from his work in northern Italy; afterwards, he exchanged the admittedly charming ambiance of a summer villa for the antiseptic atmosphere of a Paris studio. The single model furthermore gave way to a group of well-built graces. The unclarity of motion that had been suggested in the Italian sequence was now replaced in favor of a truly 'frozen' entry in They're Coming!. Careful observers will note, however, that not all the details are logically followed through. Somehow, the pumps have gotten mixed. And the model on the back left has reversed the stationary and moving leg. In film one would say that the continuity is missing. Oversight - or intention deriving from a horror of too much smoothness, too much perfection? Newton emulated his women. He always valued dominant femininity. The high-heeled shoes, the strong upshot, the light, neutral background against which the contours of the women stand out as if chiseled all strengthen the impression of the threat, especially in the 'undressed' ver-sion. In the magazine business, the right side is usually considered to be the more important. In the Vogue premier, the naked variant is to the left, the clothed to the right - a layout that seems logical as long as one fol-lows the direction of reading and reckons that the human being is initially naked and only afterwards clothed. When, however, Newton was re-sponsible for the order of the sequence, as in his Big Nudes, he reversed them - perhaps indicating which of the motifs held more importance for him. At the same time, the charm of the two photographs clearly resides in their character as a diptych: only in terms of such a thesis and anti-thesis does the theme develop its full interest. Vogue presented the sequence under the title "Beaute - Silhouette 82". The lead-in was brief: "Work on your body so it can wear the fashions of the coming season with grace." Interestingly, in the autumn of 1939 a similar theme had appeared in the French Vogue: looking toward the coming lines that were fitted to the contours of the body: the corset had been reinvented and was now being recommended once more to women. Today, one offers them a fitness studio and hand-weights. Helmut Newton was without a doubt a witness of the dramatically changing role of women in society. And he was their important, if often misunderstood, iconographer.

 

 

 

Helmut Newton,

born Helmut Neustadter (October 31, 1920, Berlin, Germany – January 23, 2004, West Hollywood, California, USA) was a German-Australian fashion photographer noted for his nude studies of women.

Born to a German-Jewish button-factory owner and an American mother, Newton attended the Heinrich-von-Treitschke-Realgymnasium and the American School in Berlin. Interested in photography from a young age, he worked for the German photographer Yva (Else Neulander Simon). In 1938 Newton left Germany to escape persecution and worked briefly in Singapore as a photographer for the Straits Times before settling in Melbourne, Australia. Once he arrived in Australia he was first interned, along with many other "enemy aliens", before serving with the Australian Army during World War II as a truck driver. In 1946, Newton set up a studio in Flinders Lane and worked primarily on fashion photography in the affluent post-war years. In 1948 Newton married actress June Browne, who later became a successful photographer under the ironic pseudonym 'Alice Springs' (after the central Australian town). He also assumed Australian nationality. He went into partnership with fellow photographer Henry Talbot in 1956, and his association with the studio continued even after 1959 when he left Australia for London. The studio was renamed 'Helmut Newton and Henry Talbot'. Newton settled in Paris in 1961 and began extensive work as a fashion photographer. His works appeared in magazines including, most significantly, French Vogue. He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylised scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts. A heart attack in 1970 slowed his output somewhat but he extended his work and his notoriety/fame greatly increased, notably with his 1980 "Big Nudes" series which marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills. He also worked in portraiture and more fantastical studies. Newton was extremely fond of his hometown of Berlin, and in October 2003 he donated an extensive photo collection to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. It is currently on display at the Museum of Photography near the Berlin-Zoo railway station. In his later life, Newton lived in Monte Carlo and Los Angeles. He was killed when his car hit a wall in the driveway of the famous Chateau Marmont, the hotel on Sunset Boulevard which had for several years served as his residence in Southern California. It has been speculated that Newton suffered a heart attack in the moments before the collision.[citation needed] His ashes are buried next to Marlene Dietrich at the Städtischen Friedhof III in Berlin

 

Helmut Newton
          


 

   
   
   
        
 

   
  
         



           
      

       



          
    
       



      



       

            



    
          



             



    

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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