France holds provocative Helmut Newton exhibit

Mar 23, 2012, 10:55 PM

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) – Yves Saint Laurent empowered women and the same could be said of his contemporary, iconic fashion photographer Helmut Newton, the subject of a retrospective at Paris’ Grand Palais that is not for the prudish.

Several portraits of Saint Laurent, who gave women the male tuxedo, are included in the show, paying tribute to the designer whose empowering, masculine vision of women so influenced Newton.

“He was avant garde. The woman in Helmut Newton’s work is powerful and dominant_ the master in a world without men,” said co-curator Jerome Neutres.

The show is a dizzying array of 250 pictures, most provocative photos of models in erotically charged poses, images that for five decades until his death in 2004 graced slick fashion magazines the world over.

The retrospective begins in Paris, where Berlin-born Newton lived in the 1960s working for French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. The photos shown here established a particular style marked by stylized scenes, such as models in outer-space, often with fetishistic subtexts. But the women and the men were still clothed.

It was in the mid-1970s that he first became obsessed by the nude _ especially dominatrix representations of women.

His work was defined by stark juxtapositions: models photographed in classically romantic settings, such as Paris’ Ile-Saint-Louis _ standing naked and in traditionally male or dominating positions.

“It was the 1960s when Helmut started working _ at the beginning of the fight for women,” said Neutres.

The inclusion, among the naked flesh, of a strictly clothed Margaret Thatcher from 1991 shows how this feminist streak carried through Newton’s career. She was Britain’s first female prime minister, and is widely considered among the most important women of the last century.

From 1980, Newton entered the phase of his “Big Nudes” _ a theme he pursued intermittently until 1993.

Two-meter (about six-foot) high photos of naked women, standing powerfully in stilettos, tower imposingly over the exhibit’s main room, forcing spectators to stretch their necks upward. It provoked chuckles from visitors. Surprisingly, and with hallmark unpredictability, Newton said this phase was inspired by police identity photos of German terrorists.

The retrospective is an important milestone for the photographer in France _ a country where, after all, he did the lion’s share of his work _ especially for Vogue Paris.

France officially recognized Newton’s artistic impact when Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand made the photographer’s wife June an officer in the Order of Arts and Letters in a ceremony Thursday.

But the exhibit also reveals another side of Newton that’s rarely written about: humor.

“Ah yes, he was so funny, that’s what I miss most,” said his window who organized the exhibit. She recalled one set of photos featured here.

“We were in a bar and Helmut was taking pictures,” June Newton recalled. “Then he paid the barman to turn his back while he cheekily took a picture of a model when she pulled her top down!”

Newton directed a short film about her late husband that is part of the exhibit.

“People ask me if I am jealous,” she says in a voiceover on the 11-minute video extract. “But no, for me it is just to make a living.”

True enough, June Newton can be seen in a 1981 photograph fully clothed and distinctly bored _ with a nude lady in the background.

“The only time when I really did start getting worried,” she adds humorously, “was when he started photographing flowers, dead flowers.”

Though his widow conceded her husband would empower women, she let slip that the man _ born in 1920 before women had the vote _ might ultimately have had the values of his age.

“When he came home he’d ring a little bell saying: “Junie, I’m here.” And that, of course, meant I had to make the dinner.”

“Helmut Netwon 1920-2004” runs from March 24 to June 17.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

People search a collapsed building following an earthquake in Azmarin town, Idlib province, norther...
Associated Press

Death toll mounts after powerful earthquake rocks Turkey and Syria

Rescue workers and residents in multiple Turkish and Syrian cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and concrete.
13 hours ago
FILE - A fuel trucks drives along a highway in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 27, 2023. European Union go...
Associated Press

Europe bans Russian diesel, other oil products over Ukraine

The new sanctions create uncertainty about prices as the 27-nation European Union finds new supplies of diesel from the U.S., Middle East and India.
2 days ago
(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
4 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
4 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
France holds provocative Helmut Newton exhibit