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Posted April 2, 2001
The Essay Is the Strength of This Pocketful of Newton
This small pocket volume of Helmut Newton's work features one of the best essays I have read on his fashion photographs. The softcover version shows 45 small images from 3 large-sized portfolios of his photographs. Few of the images reproduce well in this work due to their extremely small size, even though Mr. Newton directed the printing. To his credit (and that of the printer), the details are unusually well dilineated for small images. This book would earn an R rating if it were a motion picture. To me, Mr. Newton's fashion work is most often about sexual fantasies involving women where the women are eager participants in the frolicing. The fantasies are often rather extreme and of a hard-edge variety. They are not for those who look for purity and spirituality in sexual relations. Some of the quotes in this book capture the feeling of Mr. Newton's work here very well. 'Newton is an erotic powder keg, a vicious knife, in the midst of the 16th arrondissement salon.' This refers to his focusing on upper class women in his fantasies. Mr. Newton himself said, 'I don't deserve to be called King of Kink.' That title was given to him by others for his tendency to invoke what are considered by many to be symbols of bondage. As Matthew Klein said (and most would agree), 'His fantasies are extraordinary.' 'He puts into play strange forces of domination, of the exploitive . . . .' To a large extent, his photographs deal with his own sexual language and imagination. Within this, his women are shown as being strong people. As reproduced here, these are my favorite images: Jenny Kapitan, Berlin, 1977 (She is unclothed, encased in a leg cast and a neck brace, while leaning on a cane, but maintains a dignified beauty and strength.) Hotel Room, Paris, 1976 Tied up Torso, Ramatuelle, 1980 Self-Portrait with wife and model, Paris, 1981 (This is perhaps his most famous self-portrait, and is a signature work to many.) David Bowie, Monte Carlo, 1982 Sylvia in my studio, Paris, 1981 Woman examining man, Saint Tropez, 1975 (A confident, well-dressed woman appraises a passing man while sitting in a male-dominant posture -- an interesting role reversal as a social commentary.) Sie Kommen, Paris, 1981 (A group of undraped runway models march forward confidently and boldly as though they are 'modeling their own
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