Thursday, August 13, 2015

       Helmut Newton loved to arrange scenes and thus to achieve absolute control over his picture. Moreover, the writer Michael Stoeber finds this to have been a tendency throughout the artist's life. Anyone who, like Newton, has been cheated out of a life plan - however it may be defined - in the course of time compensates for the loss if possible by searching for some form of "absolute control over his own life." Born the son of a Berlin button-factory owner in 1920, Newton left - that is, felt compelled to leave - Germany at age eighteen. His decision proved correct, as the fate of his photography teacher Yva in Auschwitz demonstrates, even though both his journey to Australia and his entry into the field of professional photography were difficult. In the early 1960s, Newton returned to Europe, where he found a congenial platform for his work, particularly with the French Vogue under its courageous editor-in-chief, Francine Crescent. Note well: at this point in time, moral boundaries were still quite narrow. Nevertheless, the unmistakable signs of change were beginning to emerge - at first (cautiously) in Ed van der Eisken's volume of photography, Love in Saint Cermain-des-Pres, in 1956, and later (openly) in the much-cited 'sexual revolution1 around 1968. In a certain sense, Helmut Newton was, or became, a part of this movement. On the one hand, he and the pictorial world he created profited from the increasingly liberal morality of the age. On the other hand, his constant exploration of the possibilities also led to an expansion of the limits of tolerance. Newton thus simultaneously functioned as a catalyzer and an exploiter of the development.
    Helmut Newton was a fashion photographer - and nothing less than that. He photographed clothes or, as one calls them in the industry, 'collections'. The cut or the fabrics - the 'buttons and bows' in the language of the fashion editors - interested him only peripherally, however. For Newton, fashion was rather a pretext for something else, although - and this makes his work easier - the path from fashion to his passion was not a long one, when one recalls that fashion, in the sense of the age-old game of revealing and concealing, lies also at the core of all sensuality. Newton's visualizations may have been connected with a contract, but they are nonetheless steeped in his personal desires, wishes and dreams, delights and fears. Furthermore, his success only goes to show that his photographs touch the depths of collective longings. Newton translated into pictures that which many hardly dare to think.


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