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Newton's Nudes

  • Newton's Nudes
October 12, 2014

In the past couple of weeks, Widewalls community has become accustomed to the different and edgy stories and imagery which come from the field of urban and contemporary art. Provoke! doesn’t stand only for those tongue-in-cheek and offbeat stories. It also stands for boldness and extraordinary individuals and their art. This week we bring you the story of one extraordinary individual who was persevered on the path of becoming an artist, who tackled important issues and didn’t leave any room for uncertainty when it comes to the construction of his aesthetics. While enjoying a selection of photographs from the Big Nudes series, read about the life and work of Helmut Newton, a person who, when it comes to the art of photography, marked the crucial decades of the 20th century.

  • Newton's Nudes

Helmut Newton’s Path

A story of a man’s journey through the world is not only one of the individual’s change, but perhaps, much more a story of the world itself changing around the individual. For a man born in Germany in the decade which followed the end of the Great War, the path of life inevitable intertwines with the nature of the Weimar Republic and the rising power of the Nazi ideology. Certainly, all of this influenced the life and work of Helmut Newton, ambiguously affecting his personal life as well as his focus within the practice of photography. As an apprentice to Else Simon, a fashion and portrait photographer, also known as Yva, Newton learned the “trade secrets” early on in his life…

Newton's Nudes
Helmut Newton, Big Nudes
  • Newton's Nudes

The Path Continues…

In 1938, Yva was taken to Auschwitz and the relationship between photographers ended. His private life was influenced by the Nazi regime in another level, since Newton father had been arrested and detained by the Gestapo. The photographer fled the country when he was only 18 and became a true wanderer and drifter, reflecting the nature of the changing world which was racing to it postmodern iteration. From working in Singapore, through the service in the Australian army, and to the return to Europe, Newton was evolving as a photographer and artist. All of this will make him one of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century, as Newton’s career transformed with each passing decade. If we should accept one of the Jungian thesis that an individual goes through two crucial metamorphosis during his or her lifetime, then we can say that, for Helmut Newton, the second metamorphosis came with the beginning of the 1970s…

Newton's Nudes
Helmut Newton, Big Nudes
  • Newton's Nudes

The Transformation in the 1970s

Working for Vogue in New York, in 1971, Newton suffered a major heart attack. Soon after recuperation, with the advice of his wife, the photographer turned to the sexual themes in his work. The approach and the particular aesthetics of Newton’s creative process would make him one of the most influential individuals in the field. This led to his first solo exhibition in Paris, in 1975. The series of photographs called Big Nudes (pieces which you can see as parts of this article) was later published in Paris in 1981.This was one of the most inspiring and challenging projects of the time, becoming a body of reference for future generations of photographers. What is more, the 1970s came with numerous award which the photographer received in Japan, United States and Germany.

Newton's Nudes
Helmut Newton, Big Nudes
  • Newton's Nudes

The Feminine Strength

The work for French Vogue would turn up to be one of the high points in the career of Helmut Newton. The photographer became a proponent of the need to change the views on gender issues. Instead of imagery of docile women found in the majority of magazines and similar publications of the time, Newton was interested in capturing the concepts of strength, danger and dominance which would shine out of his portraits. This way, the photographer took upon a role of a participant in the discourses of gender equality and battle of the sexes in late 1960s and the beginning of 1970s. Labeled by some to be an exploiter of women and creating contextual tones of misogyny, Newton was defended by his models who asserted that the photographer was a man who loved and had deep respect for women.

Newton's Nudes
Helmut Newton, Big Nudes
  • Newton's Nudes

Glamour Is Not About Money

In an interview for designboom.com, Helmut Newton said, as it can be read and understood from the career choices and his work, said that “art” is a “dirty word” when it comes to photography, and that “glamour has nothing to do with money.” These words reflect Newton’s conviction that society has been (and still is) an obsessively wealth-driven entity fascinated with notion of celebrity status. His interaction with this kind of public discourse had made him an individual who anticipated the transformations of contemporary reality and the seductive power of popular culture. Without any reserves, it can be said that Newton’s work lives on within the world of art – be it cinematography, fashion or popular culture. One is certain, Helmut Newton understood the necessity of looking at the world through a different lens, without surrendering to the powers of the mainstream

Newton's Nudes
Helmut Newton, Big Nudes