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Helmut Newton 3

(2007-05-10 16:04:56)
Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton who died on Friday in Los Angeles aged 83 brought fashion photography out of the polite demure world of Norman Parkinson and placed it on the edge of pornography where the provocative image often seems to count rather more than the clothes on display.

Indeed it was Newton’s work that inspired the term “Porno Chic”. His photographs were highly stylised essays in erotica with the spectator cast as voyeur. Often their inspiration can be traced back to the Weimar and Nazi cultures in which Newton grew up. Typically these pictures show tall hardfaced Aryan beauties with flashing breasts and killer stares ready for sin and eager to dominate.

“My camera is often low” Newton explained “because I like the illusion of looking up. I like superwomen physically strong and masterful. I like them very white sickly almost blue.” The search is for striking images drained of humanity and for an atmosphere at once cruel and glacial. “I hate sentimentality and romanticism” he once said. “You should feel that under the right conditions all women would be available.”

Newton would describe the multitude of sexual adventures he experienced as a young man without ever giving the impression that his feelings had been touched and in his pictures too he remained deliberately distant from his subjects. “The women you see in my photographs” he explained “are my ideal women. The less I know of them the better. The more I know the more disillusioned I become. I lose the glamour the aura the illusion of beauty.”

Newton knew exactly how to tread the razor’s edge between the barely acceptable and the downright pornographic. Adept at deflecting criticism with humour though also capable of tantrums he sometimes seemed to be engaged in selfparody. The truth though was that once he had hit upon his particular kinky and highly remunerative style in Paris in the 1960s he found no incentive to develop. Far from satirising the world of fashion he became enmeshed in his own images.

Helmut Newton was born in Berlin on October 31, 1920 the son of a rich button manufacturer. The family was Jewish but hardly practised its religion “We had Christmas rather than Hanukkah” Helmut remembered. “I went to the synagogue once a year. It bored the s out of me.”

Notwithstanding his bourgeois background Helmut became highly conscious of the sleazier aspects of Berlin under the Weimar Republic the whores he noted had an inborn sense of fashion. He found the Werner Trotschke Gymnasium school rather less inspiring and did not shine at his studies.

On his own account Helmut excelled at only three subjects swimming photography and sex. From the age of 12 when he was given a Box Brownie he wanted to be a photographer. “You’ll end up in the gutter” his father warned. “I’m still not far from the gutter I’m glad to say” Newton reflected towards the end of his life. “I like it down there.”

Apprenticed to a Berlin photographer called Yva—“of course I was in love with her”—Helmut made good progress. From 1935 however it was obvious that the family was in peril in Germany and in 1938 they fled from Germany. Helmut’s parents went to Argentina he would see his mother only twice more in his life and his father who died before the war was over not at all.

Helmut himself took a steamboat to Singapore where he worked briefly as a photographer. Nevertheless he remained alert enough to escape to Australia before the arrival of the Japanese in February 1942.

As he still had a German passport he was sent to an internment camp. Later he served as a truckdriver in the Australian army and with the return of peace opened a studio in Melbourne. In 1948 Newton as he had now become married an actress called June Browne who not only became a photographer herself under the name of Alice Springs but for the rest of his life became his professional collaborator editor and inspiration. They did not have children.

The marriage began in penury though things looked up after 1952 when Newton became the first contract photographer for American Vogue. A spell on British Vogue in the mid1950s was not a success in London Newton thought he took the worst pictures of his life owing largely he opined to the British lack of talent for sex.

Matters improved after he went to Paris in 1957. Encouraged by the editors of French Vogue and of such magazines as Elle and Marie Claire he began to construct the meticulously cold stark sets that characterised his fashion work throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He found props in sex shops and developed a penchant for strong leggy women.

After suffering a nearfatal heart attack in New York in 1971 Newton emerged with a new set of priorities and began to concentrate more on nudes and portraits. His wife encouraged him to take pictures “from inside himself” based on memories of his youth in Berlin.

He stopped photographing women on the streets and went into their bedrooms where he evinced similar predilections. “I gave up fashion because I wanted to do nudes” he said. “Fashion is easier. Fashion hides things. Photographing someone totally naked is very difficult trying to get skin texture right.”

Newton preferred to use natural light and continued to work primarily in black and white. But he gave up 35mm film relying instead on a German camera of prewar design and a Rolleiflex.

As for portraits he concentrated on witty rather cruel portrayals of society figures movie stars and European royalty. But his style did not essentially change thus the fashion icon Tina Chow was shown in silken bonds and Catherine Deneuve with a cigarette in her mouth. But when Annie Leibovitz suggested a fullfrontal nude portrait of Newton he demurred.

Newton’s books include White Women 1976 Sleepless Nights 1978 Big Nudes 1982 and World Without Men 1984. When a critic of the last work accused him of taking the fun out of sex Newton protested “I don’t think sex should be fun. Sex is deadly serious. Otherwise it’s not sexy. To me there’s got to be a great element of sin to get people all excited. I don’t see any fun. That’s an American attitude fun in sex.”

Latterly based in Monte Carlo Newton went on working to the end. His book Us and Them 1999 celebrated 51 years of marriage with such images as June raking out the fire and ironing naked while the happy husband prances before a mirror wearing nothing but a pair of black holdup stockings.

Another book Sumo 1999 won a reputation as one of the heaviest tomes of the 20th century. Thirtyone inches high it weighed 26 kilos and cost £625 a copy Brad Pitt bought several. In London an exhibition of Newton’s work at the Mayor Gallery in 2002 was entitled Sex and Landscape. Last year Newton published a volume of autobiography covering his life up to his marriage.

Helmut Newton’s wife survives him.














1957年他到了巴黎之后境遇开始改善,在《时尚》法国版以及《Elle》、《Marie Claire》(分别与《世界时装之苑》和《嘉人》杂志有版权合作)等杂志编辑的鼓励下,牛顿开始树立自己的时装摄影风格,模特小心谨慎的冷漠与赤裸的布景成为牛顿风靡六七十年代的主要特征。他在成人用品商店找一些小道具做点缀,对健壮而又大腿修长匀称的女性有强烈的偏爱。










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