Helmut Newton took up his camera in the fifties, but his breakthrough didn’t come until the seventies. Yes, previous century. His striking photographs – on commission for French Vogue – of long-legged strong women, are still stunning. For me they also represent a very intense, hedonistic period of time. Seems so long ago!
A huge part of his collection is now honoured with a major exhibition, A Retrospective, at the Photography Museum in Amsterdam FOAM until September, 4. A must see.
Born in Berlin in the (roaring) 1920, Helmut became an adult in the artistic interbellum Berlin. He met his wife Eva, a photographer, during that time and they stayed together ever since. They both, city and woman, had a huge impact on him and were his inspiration. They intensified his vision on persons, which shows on his images later on.
Sadly the upcoming war forced them to flee the country in the late ’30’s, they traveled to Australia. Only to return to Europe in the early sixties to live and work in London and Paris.
Nudity was still not allowed in pictures in the sixties, so he worked around the theme by capturing women in a suggestive way. This is how he started to make his mark, by pushing boundaries and displaying the interaction of sexual energy between men and women.
Women and underlying themes such as power, eroticism and desire are central to his work. Seriousness and irony go hand in hand here.
Newton also developed into an extremely successful and influential portrait photographer, who captured all the major names of his time – from film stars to politicians – with his camera.
“He is a voyeur and makes us, viewers, voyeurs as well. He gives us a new perspective”. __ Mattias Harder, Helmut Newton Foundation Berlin
Other elements, besides striking women, are the use of mirrors and equipment is his work and his play with gender. The famous picture of the androgynous model showing The YSL Le Smoking in 1975 was commissioned work for French Vogue. The second picture, which enters the nude model, was made for his own collection. It was still impossible to publish nude in a magazine at that time. This was how Newton worked more often, mixing private work with commissioned work on the same set. These two fascinating photographs are displayed together in life-size against a mystic blue background.
The works featured in this stunning exhibition are from the collection of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.
Helmut by June, the film made by Newton’s wife June in 1995, will also be screened.
Helmut Newton In FOAM
This major exhibition of the work of Helmut Newton is taking over the entire building on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht. It features more than 200 photographs, ranging from early prints that rarely go on display to monumental photos.
Director of the museum, Marloes Krijnen, tells us during the press preview that in addition to the Helmut Newton retrospective, in an exhibition called PS the work of three young photographers is shown in the museum’s projectspace Foam 3h. The selected artists, Carlijn Jacobs, Elizaveta Porodina and Philippe Vogelenzang work at the intersection of fashion-, portrait- and glamour photography. They each show a strong visual language in both their commercial and autonomous work, in which influences of Helmut Newton’s legacy subtly come to the fore.
This exhibition is made possible with the support of Wolford – main sponsor – which makes a lot of sense. Art needs support from brands and wasn’t it Wolford who embraced Helmut Newton from the start? His famous photos in their advertising campaigns in the ’90’s are stunning and outspoken. I remember wanting those legs on the packages so badly.
Wolford CEO Ashish Sensarma explains about the importance of Newton’s work for the brand. “He captured the DNA for our brand through photography, portraying a self assured woman. Helmut Newton tells a Wolford story without start or finish. The viewer must imagine what’s happening, what happened before or what is happening after. The definition of art”.
Most of the pictures shown are in black and white, fascinating to see the prints up close. The before digital print era.
I loved the striking colours – different in every room – in the museum as contrasting background, it made the images stand out. Screaming for our attention. Newton shows he’s a feminist at heart, not portraying women as sex objects but showing strong emancipated women who are as powerful naked as dressed in haute couture.
Until September 4 in FOAM Amsterdam