October 31, 2014
Imagine a Land of the Giants, one whose denizens are aggressively dominant females: women like Leopold Von Sacher Masoch dreamt of. What’s more, these sexy monsters are wearing haute couture. You’ve stumbled into the surrealistic world of photographer HELMUT NEWTON (Helmut Neustädter, 1920–2004). A German Jew who in 1938 was briefly interned in a concentration camp on Kristallnacht, Newton wound up in Australia, where he honed his craft via fashionable portraiture. He relocated to Paris in 1961, where his outré works began appearing in French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Well before Baudrillard and Laura Mulvey theorized this sort of thing, Newton was crafting erotically charged mises-en-scène that performed meditations on the nature of representation, on female/male objectification, and more. Among his masterpieces are: 1981’s “Sie Kommen” (Naked and Dressed), a diptych featuring four female models, shot low-angle so they tower over the viewer, first clothed and then nude; and the 1983 series of Playboy photos in which Nastassja Kinski, Exposed director James Toback, and an uncanny Marlene Dietrich doll strike various poses together. We remember Man Ray as an avant-garde artist and overlook his fashion photography; unfortunately, the opposite is true of how we remember Newton. He died in a car wreck at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont Hotel, and was buried next to Marlene Dietrich in Berlin.
READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).