"My women are always victorious." -- Helmut Newton
This collection of Helmut Newton's work casts a special focus on his harder edge images of women as sexually domineering and manipulative. Among the fetishes and voyeuristic images are some wonderful portraits of women, as well. The book is an interesting study in how strongly the personality of the model can be injected into a portrait, especially by the objects chosen, the setting, and the way clothes are worn. The essays do an excellent job of developing your understanding of his methods.
Before going further, please be aware that these images contain much female nudity in sexual situations and one male nude. If these images were in a motion picture, some would undoubtedly go beyond an "R" rating. Many of these images are not appropriate for children, in my view.
Many people think of Helmut Newton as a fashion photographer. These images focus instead on the timelessness of the female personality and role in "overcoming the other." "The clothes . . . only have one purpose: to insufficiently conceal the long, slender female bodies . . . [which] lack innocence." In each case, the women are "defiant."
I found his more playful images, rather than his darker side, the most rewarding. I especially liked "Sie Kommon" where the same scene is done first as dressed and then as naked. It is a stunning set of facing pages. In many other images, he appears in the photograph while taking it. Yet in other cases, the model is juxtaposed against a background object that creates a moderately sexual joke.
I graded the book down one star for overrepresenting the sexual dominance theme at the expense of Newton's other styles, since this is a "best of" book by its title. The sexual dominance images are often highly repetitive, and sometimes not particularly appealing in any way -- even as abstract compositions.
Here are my favorites in the book:
British "Vogue", London 1967 (images 3 and 4)
Tan Giudirelli for Mic-Mac, Paris 1970
French "Vogue", Paris 1975
"Sie Kommon", Dressed and Naked 1981
Jodie Foster, Hollywood 1987 (jacket cover image)
Leni Riefenstahl, near Munich 1992
Big Nude II, Paris 1980
Study for Voyeurism, Los Angeles 1989
Helmut Berger, Beverly Hills 1984
Skull and diamond necklace, Paris 1979
Andy Warhol, Paris 1974
Crocodile eating ballerina, Wuppertai 1983
After you enjoy this book, think about what you believe about women that makes these images work or not work well for you. Where do you detect "truth" and where does the image seem "made up" to you? In particular, is life this sexually tinted?
Then imagine how you would have to change these photographs in order to create feelings of love, peace, and progress. How would you benefit or not benefit from such images as compared to these?
Should the person describing the world have an agenda, or a slant . . . or simply seek to reveal the underlying overall truth that is already there?
Which one of these (if any) is Newton doing?
Overcome your stalled thinking that what you see is literally what it seems to be. This book will help you with that.